The early bird catches the worm even at the seaside and before fresh southwest winds made life tough for the afternoon starters, 21-year-old Newlands talent Jake Whelan fired a four under 68 to lead after the first qualifying round of the Pierse Motors sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
Out in the second group of the day at 7:10am, Whelan cancelled out bogeys at the tough seventh and 15th holes with an eagle three at the downwind 12th and birdies at the fourth, sixth, 13th and 18th for a one stroke lead over Mallow’s Paul McCarthy on a day when just eight players in the 150-strong field broke par.
The objective is to finish in the top 64 after today’s second round and make tomorrow morning’s matchplay draw.
And while the Irish selectors will have made up their minds about the make up of most of the team for the forthcoming Home Internationals at Nairn next month, there may still be a place or two up for grabs.
The Island’s Paul McBride and Castle’s Alex Gleeson, both of whom opened with solid 70s in the more testing afternoon conditions, are considered certain to make the trip to Scotland.
But the 71s yesterday included Dundalk’s Aaron Grant, John Ross Galbraith and 19-year old Portmarnock talent Conor Purcell, whose recent performances in the Interprovincials and the North of Ireland Championship have marked him out as a potential new cap.
“It’s my last championship this year,” said Lahinch debutant Purcell, who is a son of Portmarnock’s head professional Joey Purcell. “Well, my last unless I get the call. I head off to college in North Carolina next month but I am available, obviously, if I get picked for Ireland.”
A boys international in 2014 and 2015, Purcell made the Senior squad this year and impressed in the Interprovincial Championship at Fota Island, winning all three singles and four points out of six.
“Hopefully this week I can put my name in the hat and go straight from the boys into the men’s team.” said Purcell, who fell to eventual runner-up Tiarnan McLarnon in the last 16 at Royal Portrush last week.
“He went all the way to the final. So I was happy enough with the week.”
The testing crosswind made scoring a test for the afternoon starters with the likes of 2012 champion Pat Murray starting bogey, birdie, double bogey, eagle in the breeze.
South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, sponsored by Pierse Motors, Lahinch GC (Par 72) Stokeplay qualifying, 1st rd:
68 J Whelan (Newlands)
69 P McCarthy (Mallow)
70 P McBride (Island), A Gleeson (Castle)
71 A Grant (Dundalk), C Purcell (Portmarnock), JR Galbraith (Whitehead), D Holland (Castle)
72 D Morley (Oughterard), K Egan (Carton House), S Watts (Cairndhu), S Flanagan (Co. Sligo), R Cannon (Balbriggan), C Madey (USA)
73 E Farrell (Ardee), G Mungovan (Headfort), J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), R Dawson (Tramore), R Lester (Hermitage), P Murray (Limerick), G Collins (Rosslare), D Brady (Co. Sligo), M Mullen (Rosslare)
74 D Brennan (Shannon), D McMahon (Castletroy), R Brazill (Naas), L Donnelly (Kilkenny), J Hickey (Cork), P O’ Keeffe (Douglas), T McLarnon (Massereene), M Nolan (Delgany), L Grehan (Mullingar), E Griffin (Waterford), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), M Ryan (New Ross)
75 S Bleakley (Shandon Park), C Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint), W Small (Tandragee), E Smith (Ardee), P Carey (Nenagh), C Fairweather (Knock), G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin), M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), G Dunne (Co. Louth), A Pierse (Tipperary), P O’Hara (Kilkenny), D Morgan (New Forest), Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo), J Fox (Portmarnock), F O’Sullivan (Tralee)
76 J McDonnell (Forrest Little.), J Kehoe (Limerick), P Sheehan (Ballybunion), G Lenehan (Portmarnock), P O’Hanlon (Carton House), C Nolan (Galway), R Mullarney (Galway), M O’Kelly (Limerick), E Hickey (Shannon), G Smyth (Clonmel), S Coulter (Warrenpoint), B Best (Rathmore), M Norton (Belvoir Park)
77 M Ford (Cork), A Myles (Newlands), D Brophy (Castleknock), M Reddan (Limerick), I Spillane (Mallow), A McCormack (Castletroy), E Stack (Ballybunion), C Butler (Kinsale), T Collins (Dun Laoghaire), Mark MacGrath (Limerick), David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), E O’Connor (Ballybunion), D O’Donovan (Muskerry), K Murphy (Charlesland)
78 E Haugh (Castletroy), A Purdy (Ballyclare), S Poucher (Limerick), E Glynn (Lahinch), E Leonard (Wentworth), S McGlynn (Portmarnock), M Reid (Galgorm Castle), S Hogan (Nenagh), G Lappin (Belvoir Park), G Young (Nenagh), R Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire)
79 R Williamson (Holywood), S Walsh (Carton House), P Murphy (Rosslare), E Power (Kilkenny), T Mulligan (Co. Louth), D Coghlan (Portmarnock), J Greene (Portmarnock), J Pierse (Portmarnock), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), N Conway (Grange), O O’Brien (Limerick), Clayton Madey (USA), B Shally (Dromoland)
80 C Woodroofe (Blainroe), S Greenberg (Tandragee), R Knightly (The Royal Dublin), R Steedman (Courtown), K McCarron (North West), J Ryan (Castletroy), T Neenan (Lahinch), N O’Reilly (Clonmel), P Kane (Ashbourne), D Crawford (Bundoran), C Byrne (USA), T O’Connor (Athlone)
81 P Redmond (Beech Park), D McInerney (Lahinch), M Buggy (Castlecomer), G Nugent (Kilkenny), T O’Leary (Rosslare), J Lyons (Galway), S Walsh (Portmarnock), M Boucher (Carton House)
82 J Conroy (Portmarnock), T Cleary (Woodstock), J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), J O’Donnell (Shannon), B Doran (Baltinglass), B Daly (Edmondstown), G Ward (Kinsale), S Sweeney (USA), R Pierse (Grange), J Sugrue (Mallow)
83 D Reddan (Nenagh), A Thomas (Dungarvan), J Walsh (Castle), B Macias (Palmerstown Stud), C Crowley (Woodbrook)
84 G McGrane (The Royal Dublin), C Moloney (Fota Island)
85 R O’Connor (Co. Sligo), A Sweeney (Woodstock), R Farrell (New Ross), P McKeever (Castle)
86 C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), Tom Griffin (Crews Hill)
87 J Reynolds (Dungarvan), A Moore (Adare Manor)
88 S Burns (Dromoland)
NR S Ryan (The Royal Dublin), Brian Gilligan (Woodstock)