Lorenzo-Vera storms clear

By Brian Keogh

A villain one day, a hero the next. Or vice-versa.

The arbitrary nature of professional golf was revealed in all its glory at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club near Athlone as 22-year-old Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera carded 10 birdies and a bogey in a nine-under par, course record 63 to lead the Challenge of Ireland by a stroke.

Less than a week ago, Lorenzo-Vera missed the cut by nine shots in the Wales Challenge. But he could do no wrong on the banks of Lough Ree yesterday as he followed a two-under par front nine with seven birdies in a homeward run of 29 to shave two strokes off Philip Walton’s Glasson record.

Scotland’s Andrew McArthur trails Lorenzo-Vera by a shot after an eight under par 64 that came totally out of the blue after playing “truly awful golf” in Wednesday’s Pro-Am.

But perhaps the most surprised of them all was colourful Waterville professional Mark Murphy, who leads the 34-strong Irish challenge in a share of third place thanks to a bogey-free 67.

After four years in the professional ranks, the runner-up in the 2000 East and West of Ireland championships has yet to make a serious impact on the professional game.

For the past four years, the 29-year-old has been a regular house guest of PGA Tour veteran and close pal Rocco Mediate at West Palm Beach in Florida, where US Ryder Cup skipper Paul Azinger is also part of his circle of friends.

The mini tours have given him regular golf but he has failed to progress and home is calling. And after a long chat with fellow Waterville professional David Higgins, he realises that the time has come to return to Europe and grab his future with both hands.

“You've got to stop relying on other people to do things for you,” Murphy confessed after a round that featured three birdies and an eagle. “I’ve always been sitting back thinking that I was going to get handed out stuff but do it yourself; that's the attitude I've brought into this week and and hopefully I can move on from it.

“You can learn from guys like Rocco and Zinger. But hopefully I’m ready to take the next step. It's a step in the right direction today.”

Birr’s Justin Kehoe and Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin fired three-under par rounds of 69 to share ninth place while former Irish Close champion Gavin McNeill (70) and Derry’s David Jones (71) were the only other Irishmen to break par.

Just a week after winning in Wales, Glasson touring professional Colm Moriarty confessed that the high expectation of his supporters weighed heavily as he settled for a level par 72.