Wind and players howl as tough Rosses Point bares its teeth
Tough set-up and chilly conditions allow just 42 of 123 players to break 80
Rory McNamara: “No wonder we play six-hour rounds of golf when people can’t keep the ball on the green or get within 30 yards of the flag.”
Rosses Point bared its teeth in no uncertain terms as a tough course set-up, exacerbated by an Arctic-like east wind and a sub-zero windchill factor, allowed just 42 players in the 123-strong to break 80 in the opening qualifying round of the West of Ireland Amateur Open.
The scoreboard became the wailing wall for the vast majority of the field as they huddled around in small groups complaining about pins cut on slopes or tucked away in corners after taking an average of six hours to plot their way around in icy winds that gusted up to 30 mph.
Defending champion Harry Diamond, bidding to become the first player since his close friend Rory McIlroy to successfully defend the title, shot a magnificent three over 74 to top the leaderboard alongside Co Sligo’s Gary McDermott, Rory McNamara of Headfort, Simon Bryan from Delgany and Ballyclare’s Ally Purdy.
They lead by a stroke from Kilkeel’s William Hanna, newly-crowned Leinster Youths champion Gary Collins from Rosslare, and Irish Amateur Open champion Gavin Moynihan from The Island.
Yet even the men who managed to shoot a respectable score were unhappy, with McNamara, who has reached the semi-finals in two of the last three years, summing it all up succinctly.
“The course was in great condition but it’s no wonder we play six-hour rounds of golf when people can’t keep the ball on the green or get within 30 yards of the flag,” he said.
“It was unfair, really,” said South of Ireland champion Pat Murray after his 80. “Downwind, the flags were all at the front of greens and you were putting from a long way away – if you could manage to hold them. I have never seen scoring like that here. Ever.
10 at the third
Galway’s Joe Lyons, the 2007 champion, had a 10 at the third and a nine at the 17th as he struggled to what would have been an 88 had he remembered to sign his card and not been disqualified.
“I spent 45 to 50 minutes waiting on the third tee,” said a shell-shocked Lyons before being informed of his error. “With four groups on the tee I was frozen stiff by that stage.”
Spanish Amateur Open winner Reeve Whitson carded a 79 and said: “The course set up was very tough and the pins were in ridiculous places for the way the wind was blowing. If you were in certain places on greens you just had to take your three-putt and get out of there. I feel like I have just been beaten up.”
Former Waterford hurling All Star Paul Flynn had a baptism of fire on his debut, shooting an 83. Asked if it was tougher than facing Kilkenny in an All Ireland final, he beamed: "It was a slower death anyway."
Connacht Branch secretary Enda Lonergan defended the set up, explaining that changing pin positions would have been a logistical nightmare.
“The pins were set last Thursday,” he said. “Play starts at seven and I was here at 5.45 this morning. You size things up but if you are to go out and try changing flags and have 125 pin sheets altered, it is just not feasible.”
The top 64 after today’s second round will make tomorrow’s matchplay stage with the cut like to fall at 20 over par 162.