West Waterford’s Gary Hurley resisted the Montgomerie Course fear factor to save Ireland’s blushes on the opening day of the European Individual Amateur Championship at a sun-kissed Carton House.
The cream of European amateur golf showed the bunker-strewn, 7,300 yard “inland links” zero respect and while Sweden’s Daniel Jennevret took command with a sparking course record-equalling 64, Hurley and his Munster team mate Geoff Lenehan were the only members of the 17-strong home challenge to break par.
Hurley, 19, plays the Montgomerie Course on a weekly basis as a Paddy Harrington Scholarship student at nearby NUI Maynooth and he was delighted to card seven birdies in a four under 68 as 24-year old Waterville and Portmarnock man Lenehan, a late call up from the reserve list, shot a 70.
“We play it when it’s freezing cold and blowing a gale and that’s part of the problem,” Hurley said, who birdied three of his last four holes to finish the day tied for fifth.
“All the Irish guys know how tough it can play and you can talk yourself out of it.
“It happened to me today walking off the ninth. I know the 10th and 11th can be tough and I was thinking that and bang, bogey-bogey.”
Defending champion Manuel Trappel of Austria crashed to a 79 but it was also miserable day for most of the leading Irish players with British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar the biggest casualty as he posted a four over par 76.
“I just played awful,” said Dunbar. “I had a three putt and a four putt but the strange this is that I actually putted well most of the day. It could have been worse.”
Texas-based Jennevret, 22, fired six birdies and an eagle three at the eighth in an eight under 64 that equalled Damian Mooney’s year old course record and gave him two-stroke lead over England’s Garrick Porteous, 22, and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, the reigning NCAA individual champion.
Porteous and 20-year old Pieters set the pace early in the day before Jennevret went out in six under 30 by following a birdie at the second with a stunning, birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run from the seenth before picking up another two shots coming home at the 13th and par-five 18th for a two-stroke lead.
“I started to get the putter rolling, made a good putt on the second for birdie and hit it close all the time,” said Jennevret, who is on a golf scholarship at Texas Christian University. “I started to get a little tired at the end, but I just kept hitting the big spots, hitting middle of the greens leaving longer putts, making it harder to make birdie.”
No fewer than 44 players in the 144-strong field broke par, taking advantage of brilliant sunshine and a zephyr breeze that was favourable on most of the par fives.
Porteous, who has high hopes of teeing it up for Great Britain and Ireland against Continental Europe in the St Andrews Trophy match at Portmarnock later this month, bogeyed the par-three third before reeling off seven birdies.
Pieters, 20, is about to enter his junior year at the University of Illinois. And having narrowly failed to qualify for the US Open at Olympia Fields, he’s got his eye on a victory here that would earn him a place in next year’s Open Championship at Muirfield.
A prodigiously long hitter, he practiced with Belgian European Tour Nicolas Colsaerts last week and believes his power was the key to his six under par opening round.
Colsaerts is the longest hitter on the European Tour this year, averaging 317 yards off the tee. But Pieters, who played in the Irish Amateur Open a few years ago, was not out-gunned by much when they played together.
“I played with him last Tuesday, myself and Thomas Detry, and it was a lot of fun. He’s a good player, hits it really long, I was so impressed,” Pieters said. “I was, like, 10 metres behind him, which was pretty good, so I was happy with that. So I’m going to hit the gym and maybe in a couple of years…”
Having played Royal Dublin in tough conditions, the Belgian was bracing himself for another war of attrition at the Montgomerie but was pleasantly surprised.
“I played Royal Dublin three or four years ago in the Irish Amateur but it was nothing like this,” he said. “I thought this was going to be a links course but it’s not. It’s a nice course, good for long hitters.
“I had mid-irons into three par-fives for easy birdies. It’s still pretty soft, I had a couple of mud balls but the greens are perfect, the weather’s perfect.”
A sports management student, Pieters plans to turn professional when he finishes college but would love the chance to tee it up in a major, having missed out on the US Open in June.
If he fails to win this week, he will have another shot a major glory next week when he tees it up in the US Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills in Colorado.
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been waiting for all year, these two events,” he said. “There’s no other chance, I just missed out on the US Open by one spot, which was not fun. I was second alternate in the end, got third in my sectional qualifier, so it would be nice if I could win one of these.”
Winner of the individual title at the NCAA Championship at Riviera earlier this year, Pieters got up and down from a bunker at the first before making an early hat-trick of birdies to get his round up and running.
After holing from six feet for birdie at the second, he hit a five iron to 25 feet at the third and holed the putt before blasting two drivers to 605-yard fourth and two-putting for birdie.
He dropped his first shot of the day when he bunkered his three wood at the fifth but birdied the sixth with a wedge to three feet and before picking up further shots at the eighth par-five and 391-yard ninth.
“At eight I chipped it against the flag and it didn’t go in, so that was a bummer,” Pieters said. “Still birdied and birdied nine as well, wedge in there from 80 yards. I was hitting it good but I think the back nine’s a little tougher.”
Out in 31, he bogeyed the 10th off another poor drive but birded the par-five at 15th and 18th to match Porteous in the clubhouse lead.
“I hit a six-iron on both, which was weird because I hit three-woods in the practice rounds,” Pieters said of his back nine birdies. “But there’s no wind so they were playing shorter.”
Porteous began with a bogey at the par-three third but birdied the par-five fourth and eighth to turn in 35 before scorching home in 31.
The 22-year old from Northumberland, a senior at the University of Tennessee, picked up shots at the 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th.
Schwab, who was beaten by Dunbar in the British Amateur Championship final last month, shot a five under 67 as Welsh Walker Cup player Rhys Pugh bogeyed the par-five 18th for a 68 that left him in a 10-man tied for fifth alongside Hurley, compatriot Jason Shufflebottom, Portugal’s Gonçalo Pinto, Spain’s Antono Ferrer, Robin Kind of the Netherlands, Belgian Matthias Boesmans, England’s Michael Saunders, Germany’s Maximilian Rottluff and Swede Niclas Lindstrom on four under.
Stackstown’s Richard Bridges and Knock’s Nicky Grant shot level par 72s but Kevin Phelan, Harry Diamond, Paul Dunne and Reeve Whitson had to settle for 73s.
Richard O’Donovan, Aaron Kearney and Irish Close and East of Ireland champion Chris Selfridge carded two over 74s.
“I was all over the place,” said Selfridge, who repaired some of the damage with an eagle at the last. “I was in seven bunkers off the tee. Not even bad tee shots, just average tee shots and just all over the place.
“My short game was good, I putted well on the back nine. I felt that I got the most out of it. I eagled the last hole and really grinded as much as I could, at least I still have a chance. Two rounds in the 60s over the next two days, surely you won’t be any worse that tenth.”
Amateur champion Dunbar and Muskerry’s Niall Gorey slipped to four over 76s.
“I just played awful,” Dunbar said. “I had a three putt at the ninth and a four-putt at the 10th but the funy thing is that I actually putted quite well, or it could have been worse.”
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy complained about his form on the greens as he signed for a five over 77.
Defending champion Trappel was joint last by mid afternoon after a seven over par 79 featuring seven bogeys.
European Individual Amateur Championship, Carton House GC (Montgomerie, Par 72)
64 D Jennevret (Swe)
66 G Porteous (Eng), T Pieters (Bel)
67 M Schwab (Aut)
68 R Kind (Ned), A Ferrer (Esp), G Pinto (Por), M Rottluff (Ger), M Boesmans (Bel), G Hurley (Ire), J Shufflebotham (Wal), M Saunders (Eng), R Pugh (Wal), N Lindström (Swe)
69 B Stow (Eng), A Saddier (Fra), M Röhrig (Ger), P Barjon (Fra), T Sørensen (Den), P Westermann (Ger)
70 D Huizing (Ned), G Lenehan (Ire), F Zuchetti (Ita), J Francisco Sarasti (Esp), H Rouillon (Fra), B Hellgren, L Scotto (Ita), B Rusch (Sui), M Lampert (Ger)
71 L Lespinasse (Fra), G Eason (Eng), V Perez (Fra), P Widegren (Swe), J White (Sco), S Crichton (Sco), M Schjoelberg (Nor), N Carlsson (Swe), T Gornik (Slo), N Kimsey (Eng), C Berardo (Fra), A Boasson (Icl), J Stalter (Fra), J Frazer (Wal), P Angles (Esp)
72 R Bridges (Ire), E Søgaard (Den), M Clark (Sco), J Hiluta (Eng), T Detry (Bel), N Grant (Ire), F Daux (Fra), C Pigem (Esp), K Subregis (Fra), R Van West (Ned), O Rozner (Fra), H Casey (Eng), J Rutherford (Eng), P Valasek (Svk), F Bergamaschi (Ita)
73 R Whitson (Ire), H Diamond (Ire), M Dobias (Sui), E Amacher (Sui), K Phelan (Ire), L Nemecz (Aut), F McKenna (Sco), S Soderberg (Swe), C Sordet (Fra), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), V Henum (Den), R Caron (Ned), P Dunne (Ire)
74 C Selfridge (Ire), B Soutar (Sco), T Elissalde (Fra), M Gradecki (Pol), R O’Donovan (Ire), P Shields (Sco), J Sainz (Esp), J Girrbach (Sui), B Virto (Esp), J Pastor (Esp), A Kearney (Ire), C Shinkwin (Eng), M Schneider (Ger), P Ferrier (Sco), T Beaucousin (Fra)
75 J Carlota (Por), M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra), A Schwartz (Fra), J White (Eng), L Weber (Fra), C Weninger (Aut), F Laporta (Ita), K Hesbois (Bel), G Robertson (Sco), G Schoeb (Fra), E Cuartero (Esp), S William Fernandez (Esp), L Thomas (Wal), D Timms (Eng);
76 A Chesters (Eng), H Sayin (Tur), O Lieser (Cze), K Thor Einarsson (Icl), N Gorey (Ire), A Dunbar (Ire), M Veijalainen (Fin), B Loughrey (Eng), L Johnston (Sco), M Iten (Sui), T Nemecz (Aut), F Kolberg (Tur), M Wallace (Eng), E Kemaloglu (Tur), M Søgaard (Den), A Cohen (Isr), A Bolognesi (Ita), K Ventura (Nor)
77 O Bjorn Loftsson (Icl), M Galiano (Esp), A Eckhardt (Fin), R McNamara (Ire), A Dunton (Sco), D Boote (Wal), D Foos (Ger), V Osipov (Rus), D McElroy (Ire), D Kovari (Hun), T Pulkkanen) (Fin)
78 C De Stefani (Ita), T Berry (Eng), B Staben (Ger), L Saccarello (Ita), M Pastor (Esp), J Hume (Ire)
79 C Griffiths (Eng), J Fox (Ire), M Trappel (Aut), J Maria Joia (Por)
80 B Stanic (Slo)
81 J McDonald (Sco)
82 M Eggenberger (Sui)
87 A Verschaeren (Lux)
(07.00) G Hurley (Ire), F Laporta (Ita), P Ferrier (Sco)
(07.10) A Dunton (Sco), N Grant (Ire), S William Fernandez (Esp)
(07.20) R Caron (Ned), T Gornik (Slo), S Crichton (Sco)
(07.30) J White (Eng), C De Stefani (Ita), L Nemecz (Aut)
(07.40) R Van West (Ned), H Casey (Eng), H Sayin (Tur)
(07.50) K Hesbois (Bel), O Lieser (Cze), A Ferrer (Esp)
(08.00) M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra), F McKenna (Sco), J Fox (Ire)
(08.10) B Loughrey (Eng), M Pastor (Esp), D Boote (Wal)
(08.20) F Bergamaschi (Ita), E Sogaard (Den), T Beaucousin (Fra)
(08.30) O Rozner (Fra), T Nemecz (Aut), L Scotto (Ita)
(08.40) V Perez (Fra), C Weninger (Aut), S Soderberg (Swe)
(08.50) T Elissalde (Fra), F Kolberg (Tur), L Saccarello (Ita)
(09.05) M Boesmans (Bel), F Daux (Fra), J Girrbach (Sui)
(09.15) A Bolognesi (Ita), G Schoeb (Fra), D Timms (Eng)
(09.25) P Dunne (Ire), M Iten (Sui), M Gradecki (Pol)
(09.35) M Saunders (Eng), L Johnston (Sco), K Thor Einarsson (Isl)
(09.45) G Lenehan (Ire), M Sogaard (Den), B Virto (Esp)
(09.55) M Veijalainen (Fin), M Schjoelberg (Nor), P Angles (Esp)
(10.05) M Stanic (Slo), A Verschaeren (Lux), P Valasek (Svk)
(10.15) A Cohen (Isr), M Eggenberger (Sui), V Osipov (Rus)
(10.25) E Kemaloglu (Tur), L Lespinasse (Fra), A Kearney (Ire)
(10.35) M Rohrig (Ger), A Boasson (Isl), D Kovari (Hun)
(10.45) F Zucchetti (Ita), L Thomas (Wal), J Sainz (Esp)
(10.55) B Hellgren (Swe), J Carlota (Por), J Hume (Ire)
(11.10) M Galiano (Esp), N Gorey (Ire), H Roulillon (Fra)
(11:20) J Frazer (Wal), D McElroy (Ire), J Stalter (Fra)
(11:30) G Porteous (Eng), T Detry (Bel), J Maria Joia (Por)
(11.40) R Kind (Ned), M Schwab (Aut), K Subregis (Fra)
(11.50) T Pieters (Bel), P Barjon (Fra), M Rottluff (Ger)
(12.00) M Lampert (Ger), C Sordet (Fra), P Widegren (Swe)
(12.10) D Huizing (Ned), M Scheider (Ger), A Dunbar (Ire)
(12.20) R Pugh (Wal), M Trappel (Aut), D Foos (Ger)
(12.30) J Pastor (Esp), J Hiluta (Eng), K Ventura (Nor)
(12.40) C Pigem (Esp), A Saddier (Fra), T Pulkkanen (Fin)
(12.50) R Bridges (Ire), A Schwartz (Fra), G Pinto (Por)
(13.00) K Phelan (Ire), N Carlsson (Swe), B Soutar (Sco)
(13.15) P Westermann (Ger), J Shufflebotham (Wal), O Bjorn Loftsson (Isl)
(13.25) B Stow (Eng), B Staben (Ger), P Shields (Sco)
(13.35) J Francisco Sarasti (Esp), C Shinkwin (Eng), A Eckhardt (Fin)
(13.45) J White (Sco), E Cuartero (Esp), L Weber (Fra)
(13.55) G Robertson (Sco), R Whitson (Ire), C Griffiths (Eng)
(14.05) M Clark (Sco), T Sorenson (Den), B Rusch (Sui)
(14.15) E Amacher (Sui), J Rutherford (Eng), C Selfridge (Ire)
(14.25) G Eason (Eng), V Henum (Den), D Jennevret (Swe)
(14.35) J McDonald (Sco), R O’Donovan (Ire), N Kimsey (Eng)
(14.45) H Diamond (Ire), A Chesters (Eng), N Lindstrom (Swe)
(14.55) C Berardo (Fra), R McNamara (Ire), T Berry (Eng)
(15.05) M Dobias (Sui), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), M Wallace (Eng)