Olivia Mehaffey the early leader in Helen Holm

It's one of golf's modern-day mysteries. While the Irish game has chalked up an impressive collection of men's majors in the past decade, it is still waiting for a woman to burst on to the professional scene.

Olivia Mehaffey hit five birdies in her first round. Photograph: Getty Images
Olivia Mehaffey hit five birdies in her first round. Photograph: Getty Images

Perhaps Leona Maguire, the current world No 1 in the amateur ranks, will be the player to emulate the significant successes of Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. Or what about Olivia Mehaffey? The 18-year-old from Royal County Down is clearly a class act. You don’t get into the top ten in the world, after all, without having talent. She won the Helen Holm Trophy at Troon last year and is off to a flying start in her bid to retain the coveted prize.

Mehaffey’s opening salvo at Troon Portland – a five-under-par 67 – was the best of the day by two shots. The flawless five-birdie effort was ominous. After all, she’s come into this event after winning the Irish Women’s Stroke-Play by eight shots at the Island Golf Club. She is also recovering from glandular fever, but you know what they say about an ill or injured golfer. “I played well,” said Mehaffey after book-ending her round with birdies at the first and 18th holes. “It’s nice to be back here as this is definitely one of my favourite courses.”

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Swede Linda Lundqvist sits second on three-under, while two other Irish players, Paula Grant and Jessica Ross, are among four players a shot further back. Even with 36 holes still to go, including a final round on Royal Troon, Mehaffey looks as though she will be hard to catch. “I’m just coming back from illness, but it’s nice to have a wee bit of momentum from my win a fortnight ago,” she added. “The conditions are so much better this year and I felt I needed to make the most of it this morning because I don’t know what we’ll get in the next two days.”

Sharing the honour of being the leading Scots after the first circuit with level-par 72s are Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam and Jillian Farrell, daughter of Cardross professional Robert. Third in this event last year, 16-year-old McWillian is one of the rising stars in Scotland. “You look up and see Olivia with a 67 and that’s a tough target,” she admitted. “I’ve got to try and shoot under-par and get back in this.”

Also 16, Farrell is making her debut in the event. “It would be nice to make the cut as I’ve never played Royal Troon and with the stands up it would 
be good,” she declared after hitting a wedge to a foot for a birdie at the 17th.

In the paid ranks, Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren were the only Scottish players to get their second rounds finished on a weather-hit day in the Shenzhen International in China. More than five hours of play was lost at Genzon Golf Club due to two separate thunderstorms, leaving more than half the field to complete the second circuit tomorrow.

Gallacher, who marked his return from hand surgery with an opening 70, added a 72 on a marathon day for the players to sit tied for 23rd in the clubhouse on two-under-par. Warren also got finished before play was halted for the day, but he looks certain to miss the cut after a pair of 72s.

Three off the overnight lead after his 69 on Thursday, Richie Ramsay only managed three holes by the time he eventually started out again. He started with a birdie at the 10th to sit four-under for the tournament, nine off the clubhouse lead, which is held by Korea’s Soomin Lee (66-65) to sit three shots clear of Dutchman Joost Luiten (68-66).

Elsewhere, Scott Henry sits five shots behind the leader, England’s Jordan Smith, heading into the last round of the Red Sea Egyptian Classic.