Impressive Lester in hunt at Amateur Championship

Rowan Lester is just five shots off the lead at the 123rd Amateur Championship after a superb opening round at Murcar Links.

The Hermitage man carded a one-over 71 despite a troublesome back nine.

He went in at the turn one under after a birdie on the third, but three bogeys on 10, 13, and 15 left him in a spot of bother.

However, he dug deep and carded a birdie on the penultimate hole to leave him well placed, five strokes behind South African leader Wilco Nienaber (66).

Jonathan Yates (Naas) was the leading Irishman at one point but he now faces a fight to make it through to the matchplay rounds after a late collapse saw him drop to tied for 111th, two strokes off the current cut mark.

After cancelling out bogeys on the first and seventh with birdies on holes 8 and 12, Yates slipped up with a bogey on 14 before crumbling under the pressure with two double bogeys and a bogey across the final three holes.

James Sugrue (Mallow) enjoyed a good opening round with a two-over 73 at Royal Aberdeen while Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) and St Andrews Links Trophy winner John Murphy (Kinsale) should also make it through after both hit three-over 74 on the same course.

With the top 64 and ties advancing into the latter stages of the tournament, Robin Dawson (Tramore) and Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) are currently on the right side of the cut, tied for 61st.

Alex Gleeson (Castle), Robert Brazill (Naas), and Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) are all three strokes off target and need to improve if they want to progress.

Ronan Mullarney (Galway) is one shot further back but Kilkenny’s Mark Power, Masserenne’s Tiarnan McLarnon, and Newlands’ Jake Whelan are all but out.

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