Michael McDermott confessed that thoughts of a rare 59 crossed his mind as he blasted an eight-under par 64 to lead in the €150,000 Challenge of Ireland at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club.
Inspired by the exploits of fellow Stackstown man and double Open champion Padraig Harrington, the former West of Ireland winner (28) took advantage of windless early morning conditions to card nine birdies and just one bogey for a one-stroke advantage over Argentina’s Estanislao Goya.
Despite two rain delays in the afternoon, Waterville’s David Higgins hit seven birdies and a bogey in six-under par 66 to share third place with former US Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland.
But the day belonged to McDermott, who briefly entertained notions of breaking 60 when he birdied the first four holes, lipped out from 35 feet for birdie at the fifth and then picked up shots at the sixth and seventh to get to six under par with 11 holes to play.
“Shooting a 59 did cross my mind after the seventh,” said McDermott, who lipped out from nine feet at the eighth and parred the ninth to turn in 30 blows. “But there was an awful long way to go. I went close on the eighth and thought I’d love to go through in 29.”
A bogey at the 12th, where he was bunkered greenside, put paid to his chances of carding just the second 59 in Challenge Tour history. But he birdied 10th and the par-five 14th and 17th to set the clubhouse target and confessed that the Open champion has been a major inspiration for him throughout his golfing career.
He said: “When I was a kid Padraig was the top amateur in the country. He gave me lots of little bits of advice. He was a bit of an inspiration when we were kids. It’s great to see what he’s done.”
Glasson touring pro Colm Moriarty birdied his last two holes for a 67 to finish in a log jam for fourth place on five-under par with Ulsterman Gareth Shaw and Woodbrook’s Paul McDonald the next best of the 32-strong Irish contingent on three-under after rounds of 67.