In the conditions, the course record of 66 set by Brian Casey on his way to victory in the 2011 Irish Youths Championship appeared extremely vulnerable. For much of the time, it looked as if the man to do it would be the virtually-unknown 18-year-old Gavin Fitzmaurice from Balcarrick in North Co Dublin who began his round with four threes, holing a 20-footer for eagle at the long 2nd, and completed the outward journey in six under 30.
By this stage, the warmth of earlier in the day had given way to a distinct chill, but, spurred on his by caddie Tadhg Harrington (a brother of Pádraig), left-hander Fitzmaurice kept it going until the difficult 14th, where his tee shot went well left, his recovery caught a bunker and the eventual outcome was a double-bogey six. That knocked the momentum out of the youngster, though he did continue on courageously and a birdie on the last saw him finish on 69 and the seventh player under 70.
Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan Yates, a second-year arts student at UCD and a member of the Maynooth University Barton Shield winning team at Kinsale in 2012, was also on course to set a new mark when he stood six under par after 15 with the wind-assisted par five 16th and 18th lying in wait.
However, he finished with a bogey at 16, followed by pars at 17 and 18 and so left the course with mixed emotions. On the positive side, he would enjoy a two stroke advantage at the end of day and could look back on outstanding shot making, most notably at the 11th, where he unleashed a tee shot of 330 yards to reach the green before holing the putt for eagle.
Stuart Grehan, Alex Gleeson and Robin Dawson are three golfers very much in form. They helped Ireland to win the Home International Championship at Royal Portrush last week and yesterday each shot three under par rounds of 69. Grehan, who birdied five of his last eight, is the recent winner of the South of Ireland Championship, having earlier in the season captured the East of Ireland.
Although his home club is Faithlegg, Dawson represents Tramore in the inter-club competitions, so the local support is very much behind him in his bid to bring back the trophy previously here won by Eddie Power in 1987. Dawson was another heading for a really low score when successive bogeys at the 13th and 14th threatened to knock the talented redhead off his game, but instead he regained the lost shots at the short 15th and long 16th. After another concession at the 17th, Dawson lipped out for eagle on the 18th but his birdie four saw him finish inside the 70 mark. In addition to the current international trio, the others to finish on 69 were Clonmel’s Gavin Smyth and ex-Ireland player Eoin Arthurs.
Among a large group on 70 was last year’s Stuart Bleakley from Shandon Park, who eagled the 18th, while recent Mullingar Scratch Cup winner Alan Lowry closed on 73. He was joined on that mark by Eddie Power, whose son Kevin was only one shot worse off. Thomas Mulligan, 16, from Co Louth, who was yesterday chosen as the only player from this country on the British & Irish Boys Jacques Leglise trophy team, also shot 74.