Defending champion Paul O’Hanlon left frustrated by Baltray’s bunkers

Defending champion Paul O’Hanlon fell victim to Baltray’s bunkers as he let a sensational start slip away and opened with a one-under 71 in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at County Louth.

With Portmarnock’s Jack Pierse, Esker Hills’ Alan Lowry, Laytown and Bettystown’s David Foy, and Dun Laoghaire’s Colin Woodroofe setting the clubhouse target with three-under 69s in the morning wave, former professional O’Hanlon got off to a red-hot start, only to end the day two shots off the pace.

The 32-year-old from Carton House, a wire-to-wire winner on his return to the amateur ranks last year, started with four successive birdies before getting five under par with another at the par-five sixth.

Facing an eight-footer to go six-under par at the short seventh, he lipped out and was never the same after that, dropping a shot at the eighth after a bunkered tee shot and three more on the homeward nine at the 10th, 13th and 16th.

“It was a dream start,” said the Kildare native, who ended the day tied for ninth behind the four co-leaders, who have a one-stroke lead over Cork’s John Hickey, Carton House’s Des Morgan, Laytown & Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty and Castle’s Daniel Holland.

“I’m five under after six and thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ But I made two or three mental errors that were a bit unlike me after that and my putter went a little cold.

“I drove into bunkers on the eighth, 10th, and 16th and just hit a bad second shot at the 13th, and with the greens firm and the wind getting up, I let a few slip.”

Co-leader Pierse (26) also let a fast start slip away, falling back to level par after 11 holes having started birdie-eagle-par-birdie to be four under par after four.

But he birdied the 14th, 16th, and 18th and having lost in the final of the West of Ireland to Barry Anderson at Easter, he’s hoping now to give himself another shot at glory at a pristine Baltray.

Cork’s Hickey turned in level par after following a birdie at the 14th with a bogey at the next. But Hickey then birdied the sixth and ninth to post a 70 and ended the day tied for fifth, as Pat Murray and Gary O’Flaherty posted solid 71s to lie in a 14-man logjam for ninth place.


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