Six-strong tie at the top as Tullamore proves a test for the best

Just 16 players beat par in first round of the Irish Close Championship

Hugh Foley: the defending champion raced to the turn in five-under 30 but he found the back nine a far tougher test  and finished with an opening 69. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Hugh Foley: the defending champion raced to the turn in five-under 30 but he found the back nine a far tougher test and finished with an opening 69. Photograph: Pat Cashman

 

Tullamore Golf Club was the big winner as just 16 players beat par in the opening round of the AIG Irish Men’s Amateur Close Championship.

The great James Braid course proved more than a match for the best amateurs in the country with his punishing closing stretch a major challenge in winds that gusted close to 25 mph.

Six players – Castle’s Robert Moran, Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan, Dun Laoghaire’s Robert Abernethy and Ross Halpin, Carton House’s Keith Egan and Forrest Little’s Jack McDonnell – shot three-under 67s to lead by one stroke from a six-strong chasing posse on a day when the field averaged three-over 73 in a testing, 20 mph breeze.

Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley, the defending champion, raced to the turn in five-under 30 but he found the back nine a far tougher test amongst Tullamore’s stately trees.

He double-bogeyed the 10th after losing a ball, but while he birdied the 11th, bogeyed the 12th and birdied the 13th to get back to four-under, he bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th to sign for a one-under 69 that left him tied 13th on a day when his clubmate Max Kennedy, one of championship favourites, struggled to a 76.

“I was flying,” Foley said. “A bad decision led to a lost ball on the 10th and but after getting it back, I just missed a few greens in the wind coming home and didn’t get up and down. I knew the finish was tough and even though you are downwind on 16 and 18, it’s still tough because they are quite narrow.”

Irish international Egan was pleased with his 67 after being two-over par after four holes. The 28-year-old from Carton House bounced back impressively, making six birdies in his next nine holes before a poor drive cost him a shot at the last and the outright lead.

“I hit a few bad drives to start off but I knew I could hole a lot of putts around here,” said Egan who is making just his third start this year. “I tried to stay patient and then started to hit a few greens and the putts started going in.”

Castleknock man Coughlan took advantage of the best of the early conditions, dropping his only shot of the day at the short sixth as he set the pace with 67 in the third group of the day.

AIG Irish Men’s Amateur Close Championship, Tullamore GC (Par 70) 1st rd.

67 R Moran (Castle), P Coughlan (Castleknock), R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire), R Halpin (Dun Laoghaire), K Egan (Carton House), J McDonnell (Forrest Little);

68 A Hickey (Galway Bay), S McDermott (Slieve Russell), S Murphy (Portumna), A Ryan (Thurles), P O’Hanlon (Carton House), C Butler (Kinsale);

69 A Hill (Athenry), D Shiel (Powerscourt), R Cannon (Balbriggan), H Foley (Royal Dublin);

70 K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), S Doyle (Athlone), F Kennedy (The Island), I Lynch (Rosslare), P O’Keeffe (Douglas), M Shiel (Galway Bay), C Harkin (Letterkenny), C Rafferty (Dundalk), T Finnegan (Co. Sligo), C Hickey (Dooks), J Egan (Muskerry), S O’Connell (Athenry), H Gillivan (Westport);

71 M McClean (Malone), J Law (East Cork), L Abom (Edmondstown), R Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranorlar GC), A Marshall (Lisburn), M Boucher (Carton House), N Carroll (Athlone), A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), T Ford (Co. Sligo), E Sullivan (Carton House), R Knightly (Royal Dublin), R Latimer (Knock);

72 P Keeling (Roganstown), E Farrell (Ardee), K McCarron (North West), P Buckley (Cork), D McCormack (Corrstown), Q Carew (Edenderry), G Dunne (Co. Louth), M Cain (Cork), E Murphy (Dundalk), C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), E Griffin (Waterford), J Whelan (Grange), J Blake (The Island), P Conroy (Enniscorthy), A Smith (Mullingar);

73 D McNicholl (Westmanstown), L O’Neill (Connemara), E Marsden (Tullamore), S Cunningham (Esker Hills), G Collins (Rosslare), R Galligan (Elm Park), M Deasy (Douglas), D Kitt (Athenry), E O’Donnell (Tralee), G Bohill (Co. Louth), T Abom (Edmondstown), L Nolan (Galway), B Best (Rathmore), H O’Hare (Fortwilliam), R Williamson (Holywood), J Lyons (Galway), D Marshall (Mount Wolseley), S Desmond (Monkstown), D Connellan (St. Anne’s), J Hanney (The Island);

74 A Mulholland (Castlerock), T Plunkett (Crover House), T Dowdall (Woodbrook), K Robinson (Castlewarden), C Rabbette (Esker Hills), A McCormack (Castletroy), D O’Riordan (Fermoy), T O’Connor (Athlone), C Plower (Galway Bay), J Doherty (Carton House), D Flynn (Carton House);

75 J Kiely (Castleknock), J Mackin (Dundalk), G Callaghan (Co. Louth), S Miskelly (Knock), J Walsh (Douglas), S Downes (Royal Dublin), K Patton (Lisburn), J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), D Morgan (Carton House), B Bermingham (Carton House);

76 R Walsh Jr (Douglas), M Kennedy (Royal Dublin), J Fox (Portmarnock), P Tobin (Douglas), A Collins (Laytown & Bettystown GC), R McCrudden (Royal Portrush), A Hiney (Moate), S Egan Jr. (Tullamore), S Walker (Roscommon);

77 E Shipp (Headfort), L O’Connor (Edmondstown), J Gourley (Shandon Park), P O’Hara (Kilkenny), C Cooley (Belvoir Park), D Keating (Seapoint), M Kelly (Naas);

78 D Muldowney (Carton House), K Murray (Arklow), M Giles (Greenore), S Riordan (Muskerry), F O’Sullivan (Tralee), R McCormack (Palmerstown House Estate);

79 N McCann (Lurgan), N Hearns (Mountrath);

80 S Kenneally (Kinsale), O O’Brien (Thurles), J Boles (Charleville);

81 E Stack (Ballybunion), A Doherty (Corrstown), J Gibson (Fintona); RTD D McAleenon (Edenmore).

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