Just 68 players in the elite 120-man field broke 80 and only one broke par as high winds and a relentless course set up led to carnage on the opening day of the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin.
A stiff south-east breeze, gusting well over 30 mph from late morning, whipped across the course for the rest of the day as scores soared into the 90s.
Holland’s Robin Kind might have learnt the game on a Harry Colt designed links course but while he didn’t feel quite at home he was still the only man to finish in red figures. But even that required him to hole out from 87 yards for an eagle two at the 16th and then get up and down for par at the last two holes.
The 19-year old, who was runner up to two-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero of Italy in the 2007 European Young Masters, defied the conditions to open with a one under par 71 on Colt’s Dollymount masterpiece and take one stroke lead over 20-year old Ian Brennan from Greenore and 17-year old Welsh Walker Cup certainty Rhys Pugh.
The CSS was 77 as the wind helped off the right on the front nine but then whipped into the competitor’ faces as they battled home, pushing everything towards trouble on the right.
“My home course has got a lot more dunes than beach and it’s not as windy as here,” Kind said. “I don’t like to play in a lot of wind but it went well today.”
A former Dutch underage soccer international who was forced to give up the game through injury, Kind was two over par with five holes to play before he produced a brilliant finish.
After tap in birdie at the par-five 14th, his lob wedge from the left rough at the 16th was always going to finish close to the hole and ended up toppling in for a remarkable two.
If he is to join the likes of major winners Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen as an Irish Amateur Open winner, he will have to see off several young guns over the weekend.
Brennan hit the first shot of the championship at 7.30am and took advantage of 15 windless holes before finishing with a rare birdie at the 18th, where he hit a majestic three wood into the teeth of the wind that finished just 10 feet from the stick.
Defending champion Alan Dunbar, who turned 21 last weekend, is just two strokes off the pace alongside 18-year old Greystones’ international Paul Dunne, South of Ireland champion John Greene of Carlow and Knock teenager Colin Fairweather after a 73.
The Rathmore man was two over par with six to play after successive three-putt bogeys at the 12th and 13th before his pitch from the rough, 50 yards right of the 14th ran up the green and into the hole for an eagle three.
After getting back to level there, Dunbar bunkered his tee shot and bogeyed the 17th, leaving him to regret a string of missed chances early in his round.
“I was inside eight feet the first three holes and missed them all,” he said. “I had a good front nine and then on nine I was straight over the back into the bushes. Lost ball. Made a bogey with a great shot to 10 feet with my second ball and that kept me going.”
Having lost to pal Paul Cutler in the final of the West of Ireland at Easter, Dunbar was exhausted and missed the cut in the Lytham Trophy in even stronger winds last weekend. But he is so comfortable at Royal Dublin that he didn’t see the need to play more than a handful of holes in practice on Thursday afternoon.
“Compared to Lytham, you can get away with a few loose ones around here,” he added. “At Lytham a bad shot ended up in a bunerk but the wind is not half as strong here as it was there. It was nearly unplayable.”
Like Dunbar, Cutler is fancied to make his Walker Cup debut in September and after a tired performance in Lancashire last weekend, he was happy to shoot 75 after back-to-back double bogeys at the ninth and 10th.
Florida based Kevin Phelan, the third Irishman in the Walker Cup panel, struggled on the front nine and wound up with a disappointing 83 that will do little for his cause.
Set to try and qualify for the US Open again this summer after coming to the attention on the Irish and GB&I selectors at Pebble Beach, Phelan knows he has to become more consistent if he is to play against the Americans at Royal Aberdeen.
“The captain, Nigel Edwards just wants to see me playing as much golf as possible so I am trying to give him the opportunity to have a look,” said Phelan, who has done two year at the University of North Florida.
“Results are important. I have been up and down with a few top 5s and a few bad ones as well. Need to get some more consistency over in Europe. I have found an extra 15 to 20 yards off the tee since last year and been in the gym a lot. But I’ve struggled with putting on the slower greens and the wind as well. I
“need to be more consistent overall and 83 bad start. I was six over after 9 and made triple and a bogey to finish on 17 and 18. A good round tomorrow and I will be back in good shape.”
Paul Dunne will join Phelan in the US collegiate circuit later this year when he takes up a scholarship at Graeme McDowell’s old alam mater, the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB).
The 18-year old from Greystones is tied for fourth with Dunbar, Fairweather and South of Ireland champion John Greene of Carlow after his 73 and confessed that he’d like to put in a good performance before he sits his Leaving Certificate.
“This is my last tournament for six or seven weeks,” said the Wicklow player, who is looking forward to teaming up with Greystones man Alan Murray, a recently appointed assistant coach at UAB.
“It will be good to have a link over there,” added Dune, who will major in business and finance.
Dunne made his senior international debut in the Home Internationals and the European Team Championships last year but fell out of the Walker Cup squad. But he still hopes to play his way into the team later this year.
So does Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, the 17th year old who shot a 61 in the Peter McEvoy Trophy a few weeks ago.
McElroy had five three-putts a 79 yesterday but got a boost afterwards when he was handed his air ticket to jet off to practice with the Walker Cup squad at Royal Aberdeen next week.
“It’s great news but I need to play well and start holing something on the greens,” McElroy said of his chances of making the side to face the Americans in September.
Notoriously hard on himself, McElroy added: “I am hitting it all right, it’s just on the greens it is shocking. I couldn’t get it anywhere near the hole from four feet.”
71 R Kind (Netherlands)
72 I Brennan (Greenore), R Pugh (Wales)
73 P Dunne (Greystones), C Fairweather (Knock), A Dunbar (Rathmore), J Greene (Carlow)
74 E McCormack (Galway), G Stevenson (Scotland), R Leonard (Banbridge), J Carlota (Portugal)
75 K Nicol (Scotland), J Brittain (England), T Silva (Portugal), D Downie (Sutton), M Gaspar (Portugal), D Murray (Skerries), P Cutler (Portstewart), J Evans (England), T Lewis (England)
76 E Arthurs (Forrest Little), G McDermott (Co. Sligo), M Shanahan (West Waterford), S Bolton (England), J Findlay (Scotland), F Schulte (Germany), N Hellberg (Finland), R Whitson (Mourne), R O’Donovan (Lucan), M Veijalainen (Finland), R Van West (Netherlands)
77 N Grant (Knock), B Casey (Headfort), C O’Malley (Westport), F McKenna (Scotland), B Walton (The Island), D Huizing (Netherlands), J Fox (Portmarnock), F Osther (Netherlands), S Borrowman (Scotland)
78 K Crowley (Lee Valley), S Carter (Stackstown), D Murphy (Portarlington), C Selfridge (Moyola Park), W Hanna (Kilkeel), P Murray (Limerick), J Hume (Rathsallagh), T Salminen (Finland), D Loftus (Swinford), S Barry (Laytown & Bettystown), T Gurek (Germany), G Moynihan (The Island), M Kippen (England), S McCarthy (Black Bush)
79 C Molloy (Ardee), C Doran (Banbridge), P Shields (Scotland), J Dillon (Headfort), T Rodrigues (Portugal), S Bryan (Delgany), E Smith (Ardee), M Durcan (Co. Sligo), W Harmston (England), D McElroy (Ballymena), C Boggan (Co. Meath), S Grehan (Tullamore), A Eckhardt (Finland), J Monaghan (The Royal Dublin)
80 G Bohill (Co. Louth), S Moloney (Castletroy), T Ibbertson (England), S Brady (Co. Sligo), M Buggy (Castlecomer), Q Carew (Edenderry), G Lawlor (Newbridge), G McGrane (The Royal Dublin), R Bridges (Stackstown), D Coyle (Co. Louth), R McNamara (Headfort), J Lyons (Birr)
81 L Bjerregaard (Denmark), G Dunne (Seapoint), A Kearney (Castlerock), S Quy (Belgium), K Murray (Charlesland), H Beins (Germany), P Latimer (Scotland), R Dhondt (Belgium)
82 S O’Connor (Skerries), P McLean (Scotland), A Hogan (Newlands), A Kiernan (Forrest Little), S Ryan (The Royal Dublin), S Crenan (England), K McCarthy (Kinsale), C Martin (Kilkenny), S Crichton (Scotland)
83 M O’Connor (England), K Phelan (Waterford Castle), M Downes (England), P Croonquist (USA), O Farr (Wales), L Lennox (Moyola Park), B Anderson (Co. Sligo), S McGlynn (South County)
84 J Hord (USA), R Fieldhouse (Wales), C Daly (Castletroy), J Hopkins (Skerries)
85 J Richardson (Royal Portrush), A Kelly (Charleville)
86 R Megens (Belgium)
88 C Glynn (Carton House), L Nemecz (Austria)
89 T Collins (South Africa)
90 C Korbler (Austria)
91 S Larkin (Scotland)
92 D Callister (England)
RT D O’Neill (Carton House)