McElroy braves the elements to play himself into third position at Irish Challenge

Wiesberger’s fondness for Made in HimmerLand tournament continues as defending champion holds two-stroke lead

You could call it raw golf as players at times ducked behind umbrellas for some respite, but Dermot McElroy – preferring to carry his own bag and not even bothering to don a cap – seemed immune to whatever the elements threw at players in the Irish Challenge at Portmarnock Links as he navigated a route to the business end of things.

A well-constructed second round of 68 – four birdies and one bogey – to add to his opening 70 for four-under 138 moved the 27-year-old from Ballymena into sole third position at the midway stage of the tournament, where England's Gary King (69 for 136) assumed the 36-hole lead, with Spanish veteran Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (73 for 137) his closest pursuer.

On a day of wind and rain and little respite, McElroy – who has been struggling to earn spots on the Challenge Tour and who has mainly played on the development EuroPro Tour in recent years – stuck gamely to the task at hand to lead the home challenge.

“It was a bit of a grind to be honest; it was hard to play good golf out there,” said McElroy, whose actions actually spoke stronger than the words as he demonstrated a very tidy short game and holed out well with his putter. “My short game was really good,” he conceded.

In alla healthy contingent of 10 Irishmen survived the midway cut, which fell on four-over, with northern teenager Tom McKibbin among them and very much in contention heading into a weekend where playing conditions are predicted to be rather more manageable.

McKibbin, a product of Hollywood Golf Club who turned professional last month after failing to make the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, had a horrible start – going bogey, double-bogey, bogey on the stretch from the third to the fifth – but showed his fortitude in not dropping another shot and picking up two birdies to sign for a 73 to lie in 10th place, five strokes behind the leader King.

Indeed, each and every one of the Irish to survive into the weekend – with McElroy and McKibbin joined by Cameron Raymond and five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey on 142, Stuart Grehan on 144, Simon Thornton, Paul McBride and Conor O’Rourke on 145, and Gavin Moynihan and James Sugrue on 146 – will head in with ambitions of moving up the leaderboard.

“I’m sitting in a good spot,” said King who strengthened his position with closing birdies on the 16th and 18th for a 69 to add to his opening 67.

“I’ve hit a lot of good approach shots and that’s been the key to keeping bogeys off the card,” he added, that strong iron play reflected in suffering just two bogeys through the 36 holes.

Defending champion

Meanwhile, Bernd Wiesberger’s fondness for the Made in HimmerLand tournament continued as the defending champion signed for a second round 65 to move to 11-under-par and hold a two strokes lead over compatriot Matthias Schwab at the halfway stage of the European Tour event in Farso, Denmark.

Sweden's Alexander Bjork lay in third – three shots back of the leader – after a second round 63 that included a third hole-in-one of the tournament on the famous short 16th hole dubbed Himmerland Hill.

Of the quartet of Irish players in the field, only Jonathan Caldwell – who added a 71 to his opening 47 for 138, in tied-28th position – made it into the weekend. Paul Dunne, who suffered a neck injury in the build-up to the tournament on Wednesday, was forced to retire late-on in his second round, while Niall Kearney and Cormac Sharvin missed out.

Wiesberger admitted to feeling the effects of jetlag after returning straight from the US PGA at Kiawah Island to defend his title.

“I’ve been trying to control the energy. I didn’t do much after the first round, went to bed with an early start. I’m feeling good and hopefully ready for as good a weekend as the first two day,s” said the 35-year-old Austrian.

Irish Challenge

Portmarnock Links, Co Dublin

(Par 71)

Leading 2nd round scores

Irish in bold

136- Gary King (Eng) 67 69

137 - Alfredo Garcia-Hereida (Sp) 64 73

138 - Dermot McElroy 70 68

139 - Borja Virto (Sp) 68 71

140 - Gud Kristjansson (Ice) 69 71, Andrew Wilson (Eng) 72 68, Eduard Rousaud (Sp) 71 69, Daan Huizing (Neth) 71 69, Yannick Paul (Ger) 69 71

141 - Tom McKibbin 68 73

142 - Fredric Lacroix (Fr) 75 67, Alexander Knappe (Ger) 70 72, Nicolai Kristensen (Den) 72 70, Cameron Raymond 68 74, Ugo Coussaud (Fr) 72 70, Benjamin Rusch (Swit) 73 69, Michael Hoey 71 71, Jerome Lando Casanova (Fr) 72 70, Ben Schmidt (Eng) 71 71

143 - Daniel Gavins (Eng) 72 71, Julien Brun (Fr) 71 72, Victor Riu (Fr) 72 71, Matteo Mannasero (It) 74 69, Blake Winfred (Aus) 71 72, Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 72 71, Mateusz Gradecki (Pol) 73 70, Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 71 72

144 - Harry Ellis (Eng) 74 70, David Boote (Wal) 72 72, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 71 73, Stuart Grehan 71 73, Daniel Hillier (Aus) 72 72, Christopher Mivis (Bel) 72 72

145 - Simon Thornton 74 71, Bradley Moore (Eng) 73 72, Paul McBride 73 72, Craig Ross (Scot) 74 71, Daniel Young (Scot) 68 77, Felix Palson (Swe) 68 77, Conor O'Rourke 72 73, Kris Reitan (Nor) 69 76, David Borda (Sp) 70 75, Robert Dinwiddie (Eng) 72 73, Manuel Elvira (Sp) 72 73, Joel Girrbach (Swit) 73 72, Aron Zemmer (It) 74 71, Nick McCarthy (Eng) 72 73, Jeremy Paul (Ger) 73 72

146 - Mathieu Fenasse (Fr) 72 74, Max Orrin (Eng) 74 72, Gavin Moynihan 75 71, Steven Tiley (Eng) 77 69, Sebastien Gros (Fr) 73 73, Oliver Gillberg (Swe) 78 68, Oliver Hundeboll (Den) 72 74, Hinrich Arkenau 74 72, Jarand Arnoy (Nor) 72 74, James Sugrue 72 74, Raphael De Sousa (Swit) 73 73, Clement Berardo (Fr) 75 71, Enrico Di Nitto (It) 73 73, Robin Williams (Eng) 73 73

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times