Fog delayed teenager David Brady’s Radisson Blue sponsored West of Ireland Championship debut by two and a half hours but the County Sligo lad could probably have burned it off himself so hot was his game as he shaved a shot off the course record, reeling off nine birdies in a seven under 64 on the famous Rosses Point links.
With his home course in magnificent shape and with only a zephyr breeze to trouble him under a azure sky, the 17-year old fifth year student from Sligo Grammar raced to nine under par without error only to bogey the 16th and 17th.
The finish was only a minor disappointment for the former Under 16 Boys international from nearby Ballincar — built like a graphite driver with a precious little extra weight on his 6’3” frame — who had the honour of hitting the first shot of the championship having carded what was until then a career best 69 in last Wednesday’s 18 hole qualifier to top the qualifiers for the championship proper.
A big hitter with the kind of fearless putting stroke that only teenagers possess, he didn’t birdie either the par-five third or fifth holes but still managed matching nines of 32 to lead by two strokes from Naas’ Jack Hume and Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan with club mate Steffan O’Hara and Ardee’s Eugene Smith four behind in the 36-hole race to make the top 64 qualifiers for the matchplay stages tonight.
“I’m happy out,” Brady said on a day when most the championship favourites fared well and the field raced around in an average of around 4 hours 11 minutes. “I’ll just concentrate on having another good score tomorrow. Before the start I definitely had ambitions to do well in the tournament. I know I am one of the best in the field, so I will try to go for it.”
A wedge to two feet set up his opening birdie at the second and while he chipped in for another at the fourth, the majority of his birdies were the result of classy ball-striking and the kind of putting touch that smacks of a Faustian pact.
He didn't birdie the par-five third or fifth holes and was forced to get up and down for par with a pitch and a putt at the sixth before rattling off seven birdies in his next nine holes to get to nine under.
After sinking an 18 footer at the seventh, he hit a seven iron to 12 feet at the short ninth to turn in 32 and then birdied the 11th from two feet.
He tapped in for another birdie at the par-five 12th, hit an eight iron to four feet at the par-three 13th and rolled in a 10 footer at the 14th before holing a 40 footer from just short of the 15th green for birdie number nine.
A surreal score looked on the cards before Rosses Point had her say.
He missed a seven footer for par after pulling his tee shot at the par-three 16th and then happily two-putted the terrifying 17th for bogey after a pushed drive left him with too much to do and he came up well short of the green.
Hume, who was one of four Irish players named in the 21-man Great Britain and Ireland St Andrews Trophy squad earlier this week, was pleased to drop just one shot in his 66 before later starter Lenehan matched that score having raced to five under after eight holes in a seven-birdie round.
“Winning a championship is at the top of my list this year,” said 20-year old Hume, who won all four provincial Boys titles in 2010.
“I had a few close calls last year, just missing out on a playoff in the Irish Amateur last year and losing the Lytham Trophy in a playoff.
“Hopefully I can push on this year because I’m a better player thanks to my coach Gavin Lunny and I don’t get as frustrated. I’m not as hard on myself.”
Lenehan is pushing for a place on the Irish team and having performed well on trips with the senior panel to South Africa and Spain earlier this year, he knows that good golf is the secret to a full international cap
“I’d like to get to the business end of a championship after missing the playoff by one in the Irish Amateur last year and getting to two semis in the ‘North’.” Lenehan said after an impressive round.
While 11 players broke 70 and 24 dipped under par, it wasn't all plain sailing for some of the leading lights at a pretty defenceless County Sligo.
Defending champion Rory McNamara (73) and Irish Amateur Open winner Robbie Cannon (75) were off-colour on the greens while Limerick's Pat Murray and recently-named St Andrews Trophy squad member Gary Hurley of West Waterford will have to dig deep to make the cut after posting a pair of 77s.
Two of the pre-tournament favourites cruised around without too much stress. Mourne's Reeve Whitson, who reached the semi-finals last year, opened with a 69 while Ballymena's Dermot McElroy shot 70.
Whitson had five birdies and two bogeys in played a lot better than his 69 suggest, remarking: "I just need to get the putter going."
As for McElroy, he was happy with his putting as he made five birdies and two bogeys but less pleased with some unforced errors.
"I didn't do too much wrong today apart from a few silly bogeys," the 21-year old Ballymena man said. "In general the game is okay and I should be good going into the matchplay."
Lucan's Richie O'Donovan, who lost form in the second half of last year after struggling with his driving, carded a one under 70 that bodes well for him over the coming month.
West of Ireland 2014 (sponsored by Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Sligo)
18 - 22 April 2014
At County Sligo GC (Par 71)
64 David Brady (Co. Sligo)
66 Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Jack Hume (Naas)
68 Eugene Smith (Ardee), Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo)
69 Simon Bryan (Delgany), Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr), James Fox (Portmarnock), Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Reeve Whitson (Mourne), Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin)
70 Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint), Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), David Sutton (Lurgan), Caolan Rafferty (Greenore), Daniel Holland (Castle), Shaun Carter (Stackstown), Gary McDermott (Co. Sligo), Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park), Richard O'Donovan (Lucan), Stephen Loftus (Lahinch), Rory Leonard (Banbridge)
71 Alex Gleeson (Castle), Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), Stephen Healy (Claremorris), Jonathan Breen (Knock), Des Morgan (Mullingar), Tom Gandy (Mount Murray), Colin Fairweather (Knock)
72 Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock), John Greene (Portmarnock), Sean Barry (Fota Island), Kieran McCarthy (Castlemartyr), Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin), Connor Doran (Banbridge), Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo), Stuart Grehan (Tullamore)
73 Richard Bridges (Stackstown), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), Rory McNamara (Headfort), Sean Maloney (Dunmurry Springs), Gary Collins (Rosslare), Barry Daly (Edmondstown), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Daniel Brennan (Shannon)
74 Matt Wylie (), Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), Greg Mungovan (Headfort), Paul Flynn (Tramore), Eddie McCormack (Galway), William Russell (Clandeboye), Michael Sinclair (Knock), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth), Gareth Bohill (Co. Louth), Shaun O'Connor (Luttrellstown Castle), Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin), John Hickey (Cork), Matthew McClean (Balmoral), Ryan Gribben (Warrenpoint), Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.), Kevin Stack (Dungarvan), William Hanna (Warrenpoint), Eoghan Murphy (Cork), Stephen McCarthy (Black Bush)
75 Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin), John-ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Jonathan Gourley (Shandon Park), Brian O'Reilly (Athenry), Ian O'Flynn (Cork), Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin), Serryth Heavey (Co. Sligo), Jonathan Yates (Naas), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), David Barry (Castlemartyr), Michael Buggy (Castlecomer), Conor O'Rourke (Naas), Thomas O'Connor (Athlone), Ian Kettyle (Rathmore), Shane McGlynn (Carton House), Kealan Quigg (City of Derry), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Kieran Lovelock (Hindhead), Matthew Kane (Whitehead)
76 Keith Crowley (Fota Island), Declan O'Neill (Carton House), Chris Carroll (Shandon Park), Niall Foley (Island), James McVicker (Knock), Edward O'Keeffe (Corrstown), Ronan O'Reilly (Headfort), Stephen Brady (Co. Sligo), Ruairi Kennelly (Portmarnock), Evan Farrell (Ardee), Daryll Callister (Mount Murray), Enda Cradock (Gort)
77 Alan Thomas (Dungarvan), Joe Lyons (Galway), Ian Lynch (Rosslare), Pat Murray (Limerick), Shane Hogan (Nenagh), Robbie Pierse (Grange), Gerard Lawlor (Newbridge), Gary Hurley (West Waterford)
78 Jonathan Doherty (Ballina), Gavin McKenna (Fortwilliam), Damien McCusker (Moyola Park), Eoghan O'Donovan (Craddockstown), Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo), Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell), Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), Jason Rackard (Bunclody), Edward Ryan (Lucan)
79 Ciaran McKenna (Mallow), Timmy Jordan (Dungannon), James McLaughlin (Portumna), Noel Crawford (Mourne), Devin Morley (Oughterard), Paul Coughlan (Moate)
80 Patrick Neville (Bearna), Ben Best (Rathmore), Tony Cleary (Dromoland)
81 Alan Duffy (Royal Tara), Theo Coffey (Slieve Russell), Aidan Kelly (The Heritage), Chris Drumm (The Royal Dublin)
82 Chris Watt (Silverwood)
83 Daniel O'Connor (Athlone)
87 Sean Moran (Carton House)