The KPMG Women’s Irish Open got underway at Dromoland castle yesterday and Leona Maguire shrugged off the pressure of being the standout attraction to shoot a round of five under par to leave her one shot off the pace.

Followed by a gallery that was bigger than any on a regular event of the Ladies European Tour so far this season, she stumbled with a bogey on the first but hit a rich vein of form hitting seven birdies including on three of the four closing holes to put herself into contention.

“To win your national open is a big honour,” she said to the media after the round. “Probably just below the majors, I’d say. Rory has done it, Shane has done it, Pádraig has done it. So it would be nice to give the home fans something to cheer about come Sunday, but there’s a long way to go yet.”

It was a special day as well for Belfast amateur Marina Joyce Moreno, aged 16, who hit the first hole in one of the tournament on the 155-yard 13th.

The course was in beautiful condition and the crowds gathered ahead of Maguire’s lunchtime start. It is expected that upwards of 20,000 will make their way to Clare through the weekend, a fine reward for the work that has gone in to the event from so many partners.

KPMG, who came on board as Title Partner for the return of the event after 11 years were rewarded last night with an Irish Sponsorship award for their chapter in the 20×20 campaign. It was entitled ‘What Next for Women in Sport?’ What a way to answer that question throughout this week.