Aaron Kearney matches blistering sunshine at Royal Portrush with a sizzling 65

Plus-two handicapper shoots to top of leaderboard, one stroke ahead of Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin, Tom Harris, Tiarnan McLarnon and John Turner

Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) who shot a 66.

Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) who shot a 66.


Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney matched the blistering sunshine at Royal Portrush yesterday, on the opening day of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, with a sizzling 65 on the Valley Course to post a warning that he doesn’t intend to miss the cut this year.

The plus-two handicapper shot to the top of the leaderboard one stroke ahead of Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass), Tom Harris (Castletown), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) and John Turner (Royal Portrush).

Kearney (27) was two over after six holes but covered the last 11 in an amazing seven-under par. A 12-foot birdie at the eighth got him going and he pitched dead for another birdie three at nine to turn in regulation 35.

The birdie hat-trick was complete at the long 10th, where he reached the green in two blows; he rolled home a 15-footer at 12 and hit the surface again in two at the long 13th.

Another 15-feet birdie putt disappeared on 16 and he polished off his sunshine show with an eight iron to eight feet for a two at 18.

“Towards the end of last year I adjusted my putter to feel more comfortable in my hands and the changes have greatly helped my short game. I have been putting well all year and I landed a few good ones today. Last year, I missed the cut here but, hopefully, that won’t happen this time,” reflected Kearney, who reached the last 16 in the British Amateur Championship recently

Sharvin (21), who won the Irish Close last month at Connemara but missed out on selection in the Irish team for the European Championship, was regulation for the first 12 holes but then went eagle-birdie and finished with birdie two, covering the final six holes in four-under par. The plus-three handicapper is a Sports Studies undergraduate at Sterling University and an important member of the team there.

McLarnon, also 21, did his work around the turn as he covered holes nine to 13 in five-under par with a run of birdie-birdie-par-par-eagle-birdie, and only missed joining Kearney at the top of the leaderboard by three-putting the short 15th from the edge.

Best on Dunluce, where the rough is wild, was Colin Wilton (Castleblayney) who finished at two-under-par 70. The players switch courses today after which the leading 64 go into matchplay mode, leading up to Friday’s final.