Stephanie Meadow is in pole position to secure an emotional victory on home soil as she takes a four-stroke lead into the final day of the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, Presented by Modest! Golf Management at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.
The Northern Irish star posted a sublime six under par round of 67 to reach a total of ten under par in Ballymena, as torrential rain caused an hour-and-a-half delay and therefore caused Meadow’s tee time – the final group of the day – to be pushed back to 3.40pm local time.
In the men’s tournament, second round leader Todd Clements and France’s Damien Perrier share a one-shot lead on nine under par ahead of Italy’s Francesco Laporta and England’s Jack Senior.
Perrier recorded a four under par round of 66, which included a bogey-free three under par back nine, to set the target at nine under par, before Clements finished with back-to-back gains to join the 2016 D+D REAL Czech Challenge Champion at the top of the leaderboard.
After a two-and-a-half hour delay hampered the start of the second round, day three began as planned but a heavy 20-minute downpour just before 1pm caused a delay and the afternoon groups were forced to deal with extremely wet fairways and greens, which the tournament administration team and greenkeeping staff did well to get in a playable condition.
First round leader Ellie Givens is the woman best-placed to catch Meadow after a round of 70, three under par, on day three saw her reach six under par overall, one shot ahead of Charley Hull, Olivia Cowan, Leona Maguire and Laura Fuenfstueck.
Perrier said: “I’m very pleased with the score I have. It was a tough day again. We’ve had a lot of long days this week due to the weather delays and it takes a lot of energy. It’s not easy because you have to stay focused and this course is, in my opinion, a course where you really have to take it shot by shot.
“The fact that it is tough helps me in the end because you have to focus on playing shot by shot. I like to play with guys who are high in the Rankings like Calum Hill and Francesco Laporta, it is more motivating for me."
Meadow, who represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympics, said: “I played really nicely today. It was nice that we got to finish too as I wasn’t looking forward to a 7am restart tomorrow morning.
“I had a lot of birdies and three on the bounce on the back nine. I just hit some really solid shots and made some putts today. I made a couple of long ones, which you have to do when you shoot low.
“It’s great to see people out watching. Lots of people from Ballyclare were here today. People I grew up playing junior golf with were all here today and that was really nice.
“I wasn’t super nervous or anything, just trying to take it in and enjoy it because I’ll not be able to compete at home very often. It’s a home game and I’ll just enjoy it.”
Overall, 37 men and 40 women made the third round cut in the respective tournaments and will contest the final round tomorrow, when history will be made in Ballymena as a man and a woman will be crowned Champions of the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational.