Cormac Sharvin comes of age in Irish Open first round

Shane Lowry overcomes nerves and climate change protestors to start well at Lahinch

Cormac Sharvin opened with a 66 at Lahinch. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

The connection between Shane Lowry and Cormac Sharvin extends beyond the fact that both opened with 66s in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open here at Lahinch: Lowry's regular caddie Brian "Bo" Martin - absent on parental leave, having become a father earlier this week - is Sharvin's uncle.

For Sharvin, who plies his trade primarily on the Challenge Tour and is playing on a sponsor’s invitation, the move onto the main stage was taken seamlessly; and, helped, in a roundabout way, by having evening hurling puckabouts - using an old hurley belonging to Tipperary player John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer no less - with Paul McBride, who is a sharing a house with the Down man this week.

The bit of hurling has been a relaxing distraction for the lads, and while McBride opened his own tournament account with a level-par 70, Sharvin’s round - five birdies and a lone bogey - enabled him to move inside the top-10. It gives him an opportunity to make a significant career upgrade with Race to Dubai points available and also three places on offer into the 148th British Open later this month at Royal Portrush.

Sharvin, a Walker Cup player on a team which included Paul Dunne in 2015, narrowly missed out on a tour card at Q-School last year - when penalised two strokes for mistakenly playing a tee shot marginally outside the tee markers - but has performed well on the Challenge Tour so far this season with three top-10 finishes in his last five events.

Shane Lowry opened with a four under par round of 66 in the Irish Open. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

“I have been playing well and hitting the ball really consistently for the last eight months. There was a bit more pressure today obviously but I felt like I dealt with it pretty well,” said the 26-year-old, adding of his professional progression: “It’s been steady progression, slowly but surely. This year has been a little bit more of a jump. I feel a lot more comfortable and I’ve been working on the right things. I’ve been playing golf and not thinking about it too much, not thinking about my swing and not thinking about anything too technical. I’m just going out there, seeing the shot and hitting the shot.”

Lowry, with his friend Dara Lernihan on the bag as a temporary stand-in for Martin, admitted to feeling "a little bit anxious" before heading out. He'd endured a disruptive night's sleep after waking up with "a really bad cough."

“I was feeling bad over the last week, so my voice is coming and going. It sounds like I have been on a stag party for about a week but I promise I haven’t. I don’t feel badly, it’s not affecting me playing at all. It is just waking me up a couple of times at night,” he said.

Certainly, Lowry seemed very much at ease on the golf course as he went about his business, over-coming a three-putt bogey on the third to recover with five birdies for matching nines of 33 out and in. His only little concern coming in had nothing to do with managing the course, rather a disruption as he approached the 18th green where climate change advocates attempted to stage a protest. “The marshals did a good job to deal with it fairly quick. I just hung back because I didn’t want to be in any pictures.”

Undeterred at any rate, Lowry duly finished with a birdie to cap a decent opening effort. “Close to 10 out of 10, I am feeling good,” remarked Lowry of the attitude which he carried around the course, having felt some nerves ahead of the round.

As he admitted, “I’m not going to lie. I said to Neil (Manchip, his coach) on the putting green that I was nervous and a little uneasy. We just had a little quick chat, said to ‘go out there and pick my targets and hit as many good shots as I can and see where it leaves me’. That’s what I did. I don’t think I played well at all but I scored quite well.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times