Gary Ward sets pace in Irish Amateur Close Championship
Rain, hale and wind prove no obstacle to student as he opens with two-under 70
Gary Ward driving at the 18th tee in the first round of the Irish Amateur Close Championship at Sandy Hills Links, Rosapenna Golf Club, Co Donegal. Photograph: Pat Cashman
Rain, hail and high winds proved no impediment to Kinsale’s Gary Ward as he opened with a sensational two-under 70 to lead the 54-hole AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship by two shots at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort in Donegal.
The 23-year old Cork Institute of Technology marketing student found fairway after fairway in a steady 25mph northwesterly wind and raced to four-under par through 17 holes before his lone wayward tee shot of the day at the 18th cost him a double-bogey six.
While the GUI moved up eight tees and had the greens stimping at nine, the course scoring average soared to 81.32, leaving Ward more than happy with the only sub-par score of the day.
“The way I thought to play today was literally, don’t lose a ball,” said Ward, who birdied three of the four par-fives and two par-threes to lead by two strokes from Galway Bay’s Andrew Hickey and Monkstown’s South of Ireland champion Sean Desmond.
A fourth-year Cork Institute of Technology student, he birdied the first and third and followed his lone bogey of the day at the fifth with birdies at the seventh, 13th and 17th before a solitary missed fairway at the 18th cost him a double bogey six.
“After my practice round yesterday it was pretty clear that missing left or right was a no-go,” he added. “Keeping it straight off the tee, I definitely played well today, close enough to hitting every fairway so I am happy that I did what I had to do.”
He birdied the first and third and followed his lone bogey of the day at the fifth with birdies at the seventh, 13th and 17th before a solitary missed fairway at the 18th cost him a double bogey six.
Desmond fell victim to the wind before he had hit a shot and was delighted to make five birdies in his 72 with a driver borrowed from director of golf Frank Casey jnr that turned out to be two inches longer than his own.
“I was just taking the bag out of the car 15 minutes before teeing off and the bag got blown over by a gust of wind and when I went to pull the driver out, the club was in two,” he said. “Not ideal.”
Fermoy’s Dean O’Riordan double-bogeyed the 17th and 18th but still shot a one-over 73 to share fourth with Carton House’s Darragh Flynn, Tralee’s Fergal O’Sullivan, former North of Ireland winner Ian Lynch from Rosslare and 43-year old Gary Cullen from Portmarnock Links.
The top 39 and ties after today’s second round will make the cut for tomorrow’s final round.