Dunbar Tour school hopes hang in balance

Irish amateur star Alan Dunbar finished just one shot off the bottom of the leaderboard after yesterday’s first round of European Tour second stage qualifying at Lumine Golf & Beach Club in north-east Spain.

The British Amateur champion, one of 16 Irish golfers playing in qualifying events at four courses across Spain, is tied for 73rd place following a four-over-par 75, a full 11 strokes behind early leader Liam Bond from Wales.

On the flip side, Ballinasloe’s Mark Staunton shone on the same course, making four birdies in a three-under-par 68 for a share of ninth place going into today’s second round. Niall Kearney (70) and Jonathan Caldwell (72) both produced steady starts in their quest for a qualifying berth.

The highest placed of any of the Irish is Waterville’s David Higgins, who shot a one-under-par 71 for a share of fourth at El Saler in Valencia. At the same venue, Co Down’s Simon Thornton (73), Gareth Shaw (74) and Spain-based Ruaidhri McGee (75) will want to improve today.

Former Walker Cup player Noel Fox may struggle if his opening 77 is anything to go by, with a birdie at the 16th hole being the only high point of an indifferent first day.

Muskerry’s PGA apprentice Peter O’Keeffe registered halves of 35 and 36 for a level-par 71, three off the pace, at Murcia’s El Valle resort where Cian Curley and Tim Rice are also looking to make final qualifying.

Chris Devlin and Brendan McCarroll were the best of the Irish contingent at Las Colinas in Alicante, with both men carding level-par rounds of 71, four behind the leaders.

One stroke back is Waterville-born Mark Murphy, his round finished disappointingly with bogeys at 16 and 17, while Mayobridge’s Barrie Trainor posted a 75 and didn’t recover after dropping four shots in the opening six holes.

Today is the second round of four with around 80 players expected to go through to final qualifying, also in Spain, at the end of this month.

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