Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar bounced back from some recent indifferent performances to lie just two shots off the lead after the opening round of the Brabazon Trophy in brutal conditions Burnham and Barrow.
Bidding for a place in September’s Walker Cup side to face the USA at Royal Aberdeen, the 21-year old Ulsterman opened with a one-over par 72 to finish the opening day alone in second place behind Corhampton’s Neil Raymond with Mourne’s Reeve Whitson a shot further back in joint third.
It was a day to forget, however, for West of Ireland and Irish Close champion Paul Cutler who shot an eight-over 79.
Battling west winds gusting over 30 mph, Dunbar was level par through six holes before turning in 37 then came home in 35, picking up three shots in the last three holes including an eagle-two at the last.
“I drove the ball well and made a great start over the opening stretch which are tight driving holes,” he told the English Golf Union website. “After going out in one over, I should have birdied 13 but hit a poor second shot then I three-putted 15. I birdied 16 from sand and managed to eagle the last. It was tough in the wind but we’ve been playing in the wind all year.”
Whitson shot a 73 to share third place with Joe Vickery and Australian Matthew Stieger on an otherwise frustrating day for the Irish contenders.
According to the English Golf Union:
“Whitson also played remarkable well in the conditions, only a run of three bad holes from the fifth denying him the overall lead. One under after four holes, he bogeyed the fifth and sixth and doubled the seventh to be out in three over. But he didn’t drop another shot while a birdie at the 13th saw him home in 73.”
Hampshire native Raymond, who was the only player to break par, was delighted with his performance.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It was very tough, the wind was very strong and the balls were oscillating on the greens. You are going to make mistakes in these conditions. It’s just a case of keeping them to a minimum.”
While Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney is tied for 34th after a seven-over 78, Portstewart’s Paul Cutler, Co Sligo’s Michael Durcan, Carlow’s John Greene and recently crowned East of Ireland champion Richard O’Donovan from Lucan all shot 79s.
They are just inside the top 60 and ties who will make the halfway cut but Jeff Hopkins (82), Kelan McDonagh (85) and Barry Anderson (89) need something special on Friday to progress.