Gary McDermott leads after first round of Irish Amateur Open
Wind ensures high scores at The Royal Dublin Golf Club
Gary McDermott: His putting game was crucial to his sub-par round. Photograph: Pat Cashman.
Nothing comes easy when the wind blows hard across the links of The Royal Dublin Golf Club; with the test for players only compounded when it changes direction. So it was on the Bull Island yesterday, as competitors fought – mainly in vain – to conquer the course in the first round of the Irish Amateur Open championship where only four players signed for sub-par scores.
The quartet of sub-par rounds were fashioned by an Irishman, a Scot, a Manxman and a Dutchman. Gary McDermott, who won two Senior Cups and a Barton Shield with Co Sligo, but these days plays out of Carton House since a job move to the east coast, signed for an opening 69, three-under-par. That gave him a one stroke lead over Scottish champion Alexander Culverwell.
The wind twisted and turned before settling on a south-westerly direction in the afternoon, leading to ball oscillating on a couple of the more exposed greens. It led to slow, careful routines on the greens but, thankfully, no stoppages in play.
An indication of how the wind-behind on the outward nine, wind-into-your-face on the run home affected play was characterised by the fate that befell Swiss golfer Adrien Michellod. He went out in 35 and came back in 50.
McDermott had no such worries. The 32-year-old bank official – who conceded he “definitely got the best part of the day” weather-wise – ensured the putter became a close ally in producing a strong start to his challenge. “I didn’t hit the ball particularly well but holed my fair share of putts from eight to ten feet,” admitted McDermott, who grabbed his first birdie on the second. Another followed on the par five sixth, where he holed a 15-footer.
On the back nine, McDermott kept to the task with birdies on the 12th and 15th and the sole bogey of his round coming on the 14th.
“It’s nice to put a decent number and get off to a decent start,” said McDermott, recovered from the virus that affected him in the recent West of Ireland.
The seasoned campaigner put down his solid play to working with Johnny Foster, every few weeks, either in Belfast or at Carton House. “You try something different and it beds in,” said McDermott.
His wins in the Senior Cup and Barton Shield have provided a taster for an individual title. “Winning a championship would be the icing on the cake. I still have ambition to try and improve year on year and I am still enjoying it,” he added, aware that the race is only one-quarter run and that this course affords no room for complacency.
McDermott led the field, the home challenge augmented by solid opening rounds from Naas’ Jack Hume – the recent winner of the West of Ireland – and Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, who both opened with level-par 72s.
“It’s a decent start,” said Hume, who felt that his putting – which included a three-putt bogey on the ninth – let him down, while Irish close champion Cormac Sharvin opened with a 74 which he attributed to being “a bit scrappy” around the greens.