Chris Selfridge in full flow at Royal Portrush. Picture: Pat CashmanWhile some took the “never hurry” part of Walter Hagen’s famous phrase far too literally, Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge was faithful to the rest as he cruised to a seemingly effortless six under 66 to claim the first round lead in the Golfsure sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship at a sun-kissed Royal Portrush.

On a day when some three-balls took close to six hours to battle their way around the famous Dunluce Links, the 20-year old US scholarship student from Castledawson in Derry, made sure he never worried and smelled the flowers along the way as he carded an eagle and four birdies to surge into the lead on a picture perfect day.

{Click here for first round action pictures}

The former Irish Boys international, freshman of the year for his performances in the Mid American Conference for the University of Toledo this season, leads by two strokes from local hero and Walker Cup star Alan Dunbar of Rathmore, Ardee’s recently crowned Muster Youths champion Eugene Smith and former Youths international Andrew Hogan of Newlands.

With the course reduced in length by almost 300 yards to 6,845 yards to protect tees for the eagerly awaited Irish Open in four weeks’ time, Selfridge took advantage of a favourable east wind to play the four par-fives in five under par, reducing the 10th to a short iron and a three footer for eagle to go with birdie fours at the second, ninth and 17th and a sweet three at the 13th.

“I never putted so badly as I did in the Senior Cup last week so I changed putter and it’s working,” Selfridge beamed. “It’s the most beautiful golf course in the these conditions, how could you not enjoy yourself out there.

“I took the game very seriously a few years ago but I am just trying to enjoy it more now. I played at Boys level for three years but I haven’t won a tournament since the 2007 Ulsters Youths. Am I due? Maybe!”

Thoroughy enjoying his studies in Toledo - alama mater of Irish players Tim Rice, Ricky Elliott and David Jones to name but three - he added: “It’s wonderful have a golf scholarship and living away from home has definitely helped me mature as a person, doing my own cooking and washing.”

Dunbar was a doubtful starter because of flu but still managed to post a 68 featuring an eagle at the ninth, five birdies and three bogeys to keep his hopes alive of matching fellow Rathmore man and 2010 winner Graeme McDowell by lifting the ‘Close’ in his home town.

“I felt tired towards the end but hopefully I will be better again tomorrow,” Dunbar said. “I just hit the ball really well. If I had putted a bit better I could have really gone low.

“I didn’t know if I could play 18 but I felt tired towards the end. But it’s just one round. There’s a long way to go and with the heat tomorrow and 36 holes on Sunday, it could be tough.”

Smith, 20, birdied the first, ninth and 10th and then followed a bogey at the short a 11th with further birdies at the 13th and 16th. He’s hoping to break into the Leinster Senior Interprovincial side this year and a good week here and in the East of Ireland at Baltray next week (he’s a member) will strengthen his case.

Newlands’ man Hogan, who tried his hand at the European Tour Qualifying School last year despite missing the month of August with a case of tendinitis in his wrist, eagled the 10th with a wedge to 15 feet and added four birdies and two bogeys for his 68.

Coached by former tour professional Raymie Burns, he said: “My putting is the thing that has been holding me back but hopefully it will kick in. I’ve done well here in matchplay, getting to the sems in the North a few years ago, but strokeplay is my thing.”

Portmarnock’s James Fox is alone in fifth place after a 69 featuring five birdies and a double bogey at the short sixth while former South of Ireland winner Robbie Cannon shot 70 to lie a shot further back alongside Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, Ballyclare’s Simon McConnell and Shane McGlynn of Carton House.

In total just 12 players in the 144-man field broke par with Niall Gorey, Gary Hurley and Eoin Arthurs all shooting 71.

West of Ireland champion Harry Diamond of Belvoir Park did well to shoot a one over 73 after starting with triple bogey seven at the first and a bogey at the third while Galway’s Eddie McCormack endured a roller coaster day alongside Hogan.

The affable Cavan man aced the 168-yard third with a six-iron but wasn’t so lucky at the par three sixth, where he lost a ball off the tee and did well to get up and down for a double bogey five en route to a 74.

“I hit it in places today that I didn’t even know were in County Antrim,” McCormack said with a grin.

Royal Portrush GC, Dunluce Links (Par 72), June 25-27

First round (CSS: 74)

66 C Selfridge (Moyola Park)

68 E Smith (Ardee), A Hogan (Newlands), A Dunbar (Rathmore)

69 J Fox (Portmarnock)

70 R Cannon (Balbriggan), S McConnell (Ballyclare), S McGlynn (Carton House), D McElroy (Ballymena)

71 N Gorey (Muskerry), G Hurley (West Waterford), E Arthurs (Forrest Little)

72 C McGrogan (Newbridge), R Symington (Lisburn), P Small (Bangor), J Greene (Carlow), N Grant (Knock), C Molloy (Ardee), R Whitson (Mourne), M McKnight (Lisburn), R O’Donovan (Lucan), P O’Leary (Lucan), L Mulligan (Stackstown)

73 G Lenehan (Portmarnock), J Hume (Rathsallagh), J Lyons (Birr), H Diamond (Belvoir Park), A Thomas (Tramore), M Durcan (Co. Sligo), K McDonagh (Athlone), C Johnston (England)

74 M McAlpin (Royal Portrush), C McKenna (Mallow), S Walsh (Baltinglass), B Walton (The Island), R McNamara (Headfort), S Doherty (Ballyliffin), R Dawson (Faithlegg), A McCloy (Ballymena), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), I Moore (Dunmurry), E McCormack (Galway)

75 D Barry (Mahon), G Lappin (Belvoir Park), J Whelan (Newlands), T McLarnon (Massereene), R McConnell (Belvoir Park), C Carroll (Shandon Park), C Campbell (Warrenpoint), G Mungovan (Headfort), I Brennan (Greenore), D Loftus (Castlebar), S Coulter (Warrenpoint), S Watts (Cairndhu), B Anderson (Co. Sligo), S Ward (Co. Louth), A Burns (Galgorm Castle), D Coghlan (The Royal Dublin), S Ryan (The Royal Dublin), A Kearney (Castlerock), C Fairweather (Knock), M Sinclair (Knock)

76 A Grant (Dundalk), P Mc Keever (Castle), A Kiernan (Forrest Little), M Kane (Whitehead), G McDermott (Co. Sligo), R Leonard (Banbridge), J Finnegan (Royal Portrush)

77 C Moulds (Lisburn), J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), J Hopkins (Skerries), S Brady (Co. Sligo), W Hanna (Kilkeel), J Richardson (Royal Portrush), R Bridges (Stackstown), Q Carew (Edenderry), B Stevens (Spa), S O’Connor (Skerries), R Kenny (Naas), G Walsh (Mount Juliet), P O’Kane (Moyola Park), F O’Sullivan (Tralee)

78 R Weldon (Killeen Castle), M Brett (Portmarnock), C Kenny (Curragh), S Rea (Carrickfergus), D O’Sullivan (Strandhill), A Purdy (Ballyclare), S O’Hara (Co. Sligo), J Turner (Royal Portrush), G Dunne (Seapoint), E O’Donovan (Craddockstown)

79 D Downie (Sutton), B Casey (Headfort), K Shannon (Greenore), A Kelly (Muskerry), M Richards (Carton House), N Crawford (Mourne), J Pierse (Grange)

80 S Moran (Carton House), K Egan (Carton House), J Yates (Naas), K Stack (Dungarvan), P McBride (The Island), P Gibb (Massereene), N Steedman (Courtown), B Best (Royal Portrush), T O’Leary (Wexford), M Mullen (Wexford), S Miskelly (Knock), J Galbraith (Whitehead), I Kettyle (Rathmore), C Doran (Banbridge), A Stevens (Spa), D Coyne (Tuam)

81 B Martin (Killymoon), I Lynch (Rosslare), M Reid (Galgorm Castle), S Healy (Claremorris), E Cradock (Gort)

82 S Winsby (Whitehead), B Fennelly (The Royal Dublin), C Sharvin (Ardglass), D Holland (Castle), D O’Neill (Carton House), C Glynn (Carton House)

83 D Coyle (Co. Louth), R McKinstry (Cairndhu), R McNeill (Gracehill), S Bryan (Delgany)

84 D O’Donovan (Muskerry), P McCrudden (Royal Portrush), B McCormack (Castle Barna)

85 M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), R Burke (Castle)

86 M Welsh (Knock), M Hammond (Moyola Park), D Hallissey (Muskerry), S Dwyer (Lucan), S Carter (Stackstown)

94 C Carvill (Belvoir Park)

NR R O’Dwyer (Callan)

RTD S Lyttle (Royal Portrush)