Walker Cup prospect Paul Cutler showed windswept Shannon maximum respect as he opened with a three under par 69 to share the lead with Dunmurry’s Darren Crowe in the first strokeplay edition in the history of the Golfsure sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship.

The reigning West of Ireland champion holed out from 95 yards for an eagle two at the 13th and mixed four birdies with three bogeys on a day when just five players in the 156-strong field broke par on the tight but pristine parkland beauty hard by the Shannon estuary.

“If you are hitting the ball well you can score because there are a lot of short holes but there is a lot of wind, which makes it tough,” said the 22-year old from Portstewart. “If you are not hitting the ball well you can find yourself in trouble.”

Cutler’s fellow Walker Cup hopeful, Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar, paid the price for his inaccuracy off the tee as he signed for a six over par 78. But Cutler made sure he stayed on the straight and narrow by hitting a two-iron off the tee at every opportunity.

Former international Crowe (30) is no stranger to championship success having captured the North and South of Ireland titles.

But while he’s a true part-timer these days, he still managed to card seven birdies against two bogeys and a double bogey six and keep alive his hopes of another championship success.

“I’m not as consistent as I used to be but I can still produce the odd good score,” grinned Crowe, who lost to Stephen Browne in the semi-finals of the ‘Close’ at Rosses Point a decade ago.

“I just lack the competitive edge now that I don’t play as many competitive tournaments but hopefully I can find it at the weekend.”

Muskerry’s Niall Gorey, who lost to an inspired Dunbar in the semi-finals of this year’s West of Ireland Championship, is just a stroke off the pace after a two-under par 70 with Dromoland’s Tony Cleary and Mourne’s Reeve Whitson a shot further back after 71s.

Stay-at-home dad Cleary proved that the age of the part-time golfer is not quite at an end had four birdies and three bogeys.

Married to a local lady, the 42-year old Dromoland player moved to the Shannon region from his native Kent a decade ago to take care of his two children and his ill father in law.

“My wife works and I look after the kids and play golf obviously,” said Cleary. “We have a boy and a girl aged 11 and 9, so I suppose I’ll have to start thinking about getting a job at this stage.”

The previous 107 editions of the Irish Close have been decided by matchplay but it is a 72-hole strokeplay event this year and next in an experiment by the Golfing Union of Ireland designed to reduce costs and slot it into the now packed international calendar.

The leading 39 players after today’s second round qualify for tomorrow’s final 36 holes.

Golfsure Irish Amateur Close Championship, Shannon GC, (Par 72)

First round

69 P Cutler (Portstewart), D Crowe (Dunmurry)

70 N Gorey (Muskerry)

71 T Cleary (Dromoland), R Whitson (Mourne)

72 E Arthurs (Forrest Little)

73 E Long (Monkstown), D Murphy (Portarlington), W Telford (Rathmore), G McDermott (Co. Sligo)

74 M Sinclair (Knock), J Morris (Rosslare), J Hopkins (Skerries), M Durcan (Co. Sligo), S Moloney (Castletroy), C Daly (Castletroy), R Symington (Lisburn), R Leonard (Banbridge), H Diamond (Belvoir Park), E McCormack (Galway), S Crowe (Dunmurry), K Shannon (Greenore)

75 E Smith (Ardee), R Walsh (Kilkenny), P Lyons (Cork), P Murray (Limerick), J Monaghan (The Royal Dublin), M Sheridan (Old Conna), D Downie (Sutton), E Hickey (Shannon), N Grant (Knock), Q Carew (Edenderry), M McAlpin (Royal Portrush), M McKnight (Lisburn), C Molloy (Ardee)

76 B Anderson (Co. Sligo), J Dillon (Headfort), D Brennan (Shannon), S McGlynn (South County), J Hume (Rathsallagh), T Neenan (Lahinch), J Fox (Portmarnock), D Barry (Mahon), J Greene (Carlow), A Kelly (Charleville), A Kiernan (Forrest Little), C Fairweather (Knock), D Holland (Castle), A Kearney (Castlerock)

77 D Morgan (Mullingar), G Vaughan (Limerick), D Hallissey (Muskerry), D O’Driscoll (Ballybunion), C Moulds (Lisburn), E Stack (Ballybunion), D O’Donovan (Muskerry), S Cannon (Loughrea), C Boggan (Co. Meath), M Shanahan (West Waterford), P Sheehan (Ballybunion), S O’Connor (Skerries), M Collins (Mahon), D Murray (Skerries), D Coyle (Co. Louth), S Bryan (Delgany), G Lenehan (Portmarnock)

78 J Hanby (Castle), S O’Hara (Co. Sligo), S Barry (Laytown & Bettystown), C Selfridge (Moyola Park), J Lyons (Birr), S Ryan (The Royal Dublin), P O’Kane (Moyola Park), S Loftus (Lahinch), M Clifford (Lucan), A Doran (Ardee), B Fitzpatrick (Headfort), D O’Neill (Carton House), A Dunbar (Rathmore), B Casey (Headfort), J Crangle (Fortwilliam), J Waldron (Muskerry), S Ward (Co. Louth)

79 C Glynn (Carton House), S Walsh (Baltinglass), S Barry (Lee Valley), M Mullen (Wexford), T Cleary (Cork), S Heavey (Co. Sligo), R McNamara (Headfort), J O’Neill (Lee Valley), D Carroll (Grange), D Ruddy (Dundrum)

80 K Crowley (Lee Valley), R O’Sullivan (Cobh), P Reavey (Warrenpoint), N Jenkins (N/A), S Morrison (City of Derry), B Fennelly (The Royal Dublin), R Weldon (Killeen Castle), C Campbell (Warrenpoint), G Kelly (Co. Louth), P Small (Bangor)

81 N Kearns (Omagh), D Loftus (Swinford), R Cummins (Limerick), C O’Sullivan (Fota Island), C McGrogan (Newbridge), L Halpin (Shannon), D Dunne (Co. Sligo), S Hogan (Nenagh), F Harrold (Castletroy), L Doran (Ardee), A Hogan (Newlands), P Sheehy (Newcastle West), G McGrane (The Royal Dublin)

82 J Kavanagh (Castletroy), C O’Malley (Westport), B Keating (Clonmel), P O’Leary (Lucan), D McInerney (Lahinch), T O’Leary (Wexford), S McConnell (Ballyclare), R O’Donovan (Lucan), A McAuley (Ardee), B Campbell (Malone), D Burke (Nenagh), I Brennan (Greenore)

83 M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), G Dunne (Seapoint), P O’Neill (Shannon), D Coyne (Tuam), C Martin (Kilkenny)

84 N Molloy (East Clare), D Walshe (Castletroy)

86 A Harrington (Cork), B Daly (Edmondstown), C McEvoy (Lucan)

88 P McElhinney (Lahinch)

89 R Grehan (Curragh)

93 N O’Hare (Castleknock)

NR D Morris (Limerick)

RTD R Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown), K Lynch (Skibbereen)