Hannah McCook produced her best performance so far in a top ranking event with a brilliant 67 at Troon Portland yesterday to claim a two-shot lead in the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship.
The 24-year-old from Grantown-on-Spey, the winner of the Scottish Golf Women’s Order of Merit for the last two seasons, is narrowly ahead of compatriot Shannon McWilliam and defending champion Linn Grant – the Swede whose grandfather James hailed from Inverness – after a first round which rounds could be transformed on the downwind final holes.
McCook stormed home in four-under figures with just two bogeys on her card for her 67, compiled in one of the final groups of the day.
The Stirling University student – who is a Type 1 diabetic – is an outsider for the GB&I Curtis Cup team to be named next week but could only have impressed her fellow Scot, captain Elaine Farquharson. She did finish second in an event in South Africa at the Scottish Golf training camp last month, and her performance yesterday could have been even better but for a late bogey at the 17th.
McWilliam, from the Aboyne club in Aberdeenshire, led this event in the final round as a 15-year-old three years ago and was runner-up to Grant last year. She produced a storming finish to her first round with two birdies and a closing eagle three to jump from one-over to three-under and complete her 69.
The 18-year-old played on the Junior GB&I team at the Vagliano Trophy and is perhaps the leading candidate for a Scottish playing presence at Quaker Ridge later this year, along with Troon’s Connie Jaffrey, who is missing this year’s Helen Holm as she is still at college in the US.
Grant, who won her first top event in taking the title last year and played in Europe’s Junior Solheim Cup team at Des Moines, finished with three successive birdies to share second on three-under.
France’s strong women’s team provided three in the top ten after the first round led by Lucie Malchirand and Marine Griffault on one under 71s.
But there are several other Scots well placed aiming to become the first home winner of the national strokeplay title since Heather Stirling in 2002.
Chloe Goadby, the St Andrews-based player and Stirling University team-mate of the leader, had a Faldo-esque 18 pars for her 72, while Powfoot’s Mirren Fraser and Kirsty Brodie, from Strathmore, are just a shot further back following one-over 73s.
The largest-ever field of 120 will play the Troon Portland course again on Saturday and the 66 best and ties will move over to the Royal Troon Open Championship course for Sunday’s final round.