Brand new shoes worked wonders for recently-crowned South of Ireland Amateur champion TJ Ford as he followed an opening 68 with a six-under 66 to take a three-stroke lead into the final two rounds of the Mullingar Scratch Trophy.
Bidding to become the first man to do the South-Mullingar double since Paul McGinley in 1991, the Co Sligo man (24) leads on 10-under par from Grange’s Jake Whelan (68-69) and Enniscorthy’s Paul Conroy (72-65) heading into Monday’s final 36 holes.
Ford suffered badly blistered feet en route to victory at Lahinch but he bought a new pair of shoes in James Quinlivan’s professional’s shop in Mullingar and they worked wonders as he made 11 birdies and just one bogey over the opening 36 holes.
“They are a bit comfier than what I had,” said Ford, whose bogey-free 68 in the morning left him two shots behind Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly, the man he beat on the 20th in the quarter-finals at Lahinch.
“They are actually Skechers so I will get plenty of abuse off the lads but if I keep playing like that, I don’t really care.”
Putting brilliantly, Ford raced to the turn in five-under 30 in the afternoon as he followed birdies at the fourth, fifth and sixth with two more at the eighth and ninth.
He was keen to go bogey free through 36 holes but after making birdie at the par-five 14th to get to 10-under, he caught a tree at the 16th and kicked into the drain to run up a bogey six before following a lip-out for birdie at the 17th with a finishing birdie four.
“I’m still buzzing after the South,” he said when asked if his good form was down to his win at Lahinch or his love of Mullingar.
“I do really like Mullingar but I hadn’t hit a ball until yesterday. I got the pace of the greens really quickly, hit a lot of really good iron shots and gave myself a lot of chances.”
Kinsale’s Cathal Butler was tied for ninth with Knightly on four-under after a brace of 70s as the cut for the top 51 fell at four-over 148.