A day that began with heavy showers followed by bright sunshine and later still by strong winds tested the golfing acumen of most of the country’s leading golfers in the first of two qualifying rounds in the Pierse Motors-sponsored South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.
Play began as early as 7am and much to the chagrin of the championship committee, the first group took four hours and 32 minutes to complete 18 holes and that in turn helped to throw the schedule out of kilter. Interestingly, Dundalk’s Aaron Grant was a member of the trio and he proved to be one of the eight players to finish under the par of 72.
There were several other good rounds up to lunchtime when the wind got up and the talented field quickly appreciated that low scores don’t come easily at Lahinch, especially when it is played to virtually its full length of just under 7,000 yards.
Eventually the best round of the day was a four under par 68 returned early on by 21 year-old Jack Whelan (Newlands). And the only other player to break 70 was Mallow youngster Paul McCarthy on 69.
Although Whelan is a Leinster Boys Interprovincial and has won Scratch Cups at Portmarnock and Beech Park and led the way in a Titleist pro-am at Portmarnock Links, he is best known for the match winning role he played in Maynooth University’s victory in last September’s Irish Senior Cup final against Knock.
The highlight of Whelan’s 68 was an eagle at the long 12th and he also had birdies at the 4th, 6th, 8th, 13th and 18th offset by bogeys at the 7th and 15th.
21 year-old Paul McCarthy finished 7th in last year’s qualifying rounds and so clearly enjoys his visits to Lahinch. The 2015 winner of the Munster Youths Championship at Tralee was a model of consistency as he shot birdies at the 2nd, 8th, 12th and 17th and made only one concession – at the 15th a really tough par four that caused a deal of trouble throughout the day.
There are six current internationals in the field and at this stage they all appear to be safely set for match play action.
Paul McBride from the Island club in Malahide led the qualifiers last year with a four under par total of 140 and has his sights on another silver medal after a solid opening round of 70. John Ross Galbraith from Whitehead and Daniel Holland of the Castle are on 71. Rowan Lester (Hermitage) and Robin Dawson (Tramore) are also comfortable on 73.
The only member of the international sextet in a little bit of bother may be Colm Campbell, winner of the Irish Amateur Open earlier this year at Royal Dublin with a remarkable sixteen under par total. He was out in four over par 40 before settling down to come home in 35 (in spite of a double bogey six at the difficult 15th) and a round of 75 that he will need to improve on this morning to be sure of his place in the 64 who go through to the match play rounds starting tomorrow. Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan, winner last week of the North of Ireland at Portush, finished on even par 72 along with an interesting visitor from Oregon, USA, in Cole Madey. Last year’s runner-up Colin Fairweather (Knock) finished on 75 with East of Ireland champion Paul O’Hanlon one stroke worse off.
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