Reigning champion and top seed Jack Hume was beaten by Stephen Brady in the first round of matchplay action at County Sligo Golf Club yesterday.
The Sligo native, now playing out of Galway, only sneaked into the knockout stages in the 64th and last position after Saturday’s second round of strokeplay, but claimed victory on the 17th against the Naas clubman, who was playing his first golf of the competition, having been granted an exemption into the last 64.
Two more former winners were in the field, but 1987 champion Jimmy Feeney did not make Saturday’s cut, while Galway’s Joe Lyons, a winner here in 2007, fell to Jeff Hopkins (Royal Dublin) yesterday afternoon.
It means Rory McIlroy’s record of being the last player to put back-to-back ‘West’ titles still stands — an achievement he managed as a 16-year-old in 2006.
John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) was the other player granted an exemption into the matchplay stages, and after a slow start, he overcame Galgorm Castle’s Jordan Hood on the 18th before dispatching with Hopkins a few hours later.
Kevin LeBlanc (Island) is an outside tip for the title, but he was given an epic battle by Mount Wolseley’s Mark Morrissey in the second round.
The pair were inseparable for 23 holes before LeBlanc’s birdie on their third time to play the first hole eventually edged him into the last 16.
Play was delayed by two hours by fog, meaning two ties in the second round will have to be completed this morning.
Sean Flanagan continues to impress on his home course, and he is safely through to the last 16. The youngster was the leading qualifier from the strokeplay on Saturday, and after a close-fought contest with Tom Sloman, he defeated Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) on the 14th to advance.
Another local favourite, Gary McDermott, has been the most impressive in the matchplay so far.
After posting successive rounds of 73 in strokeplay, the Rosses Point native — now playing out of Carton House — wrapped up his game against Dungarvan’s Alan Thomas by the 12th hole, and followed that up with a 6&5 defeat of Welshman Kyle Harman as daylight faded.
Last year’s beaten finalist Robbie Cannon (Balbriggan) is also bubbling along nicely, and a 4&3 defeat of Shaun O’Connor (Carton House) set him up for a last 16 tie against Portmarnock’s James Fox, which he won on the 18th.
His pairing with Galbraith could be the pick of this morning’s matches.