Dunne and Campbell lead East, but can Browne charge?

Colm Campbell blasts out of a greenside trap at the 18th. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

Former European Tour player Stephen Browne still believes he has a chance of a dream comeback victory in the East of Ireland Championship despite slipping nine shots off the pace in a “US Open style” test at blustery Baltray.

The 40-year old from Hermitage, who played on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour for seven years before quitting in 2008, added a 74 to his opening 75 to trail defending champion Paul Dunne (72) and Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell (68) by nine shots on five over par.

It looks like an impossible task but having got to two under early in his first round and raced to five under after six holes yesterday, the Hermitage player is not giving up on what would be a sensational victory.

“It’s been done before, many a time,” said Browne, who now sells financial planning software. 

Smiling he added: “But I think I made the right decision [to quit the Tour] six years ago.

“I had a putt on eight from six feet to go five under, missed that and bogeyed nine, 10, 11, 12 and doubled 14.

“Thankfully my experience got me home but while the golf course is absolutely fantastic it’s right on the edge so if you are slightly out anywhere — the greens are firm, the rough is up and it’s windy — you are in trouble.”

Thick rough and winds gusting up to 20mph made a firm and fast County Louth a tough test with just four players under par after two rounds and the cut falling at seven over 151.

Stephen Browne, pictured during Saturday's first round.  Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

“It’s US Open style but in terms of my golf, it is a really good test,” said Browne, who eagled the third and birdied the par-three fifth and seventh holes to get to within a couple of shots of the lead. “But I got it going today and I got it going the first day as well so I still think I have a chance.”

On his last appearance in the East in 2001, Browne came form the cut line to finish fourth, shooting nine under on the final day to set up a magical summer that convinced him that he had the game to turn professional.

It may be a bridge too far this time but with top 25 on the leaderboard covered by just eight shots, the Championship is certainly wide open

Mobile phone shop manager Campbell, a 27-year old former Ulster interprovincial, was certainly dialled in as he fired a 68 to grab a share of the lead with defending champion Dunne, who struggled to a 72 in the afternoon winds.

He was six under after 13 holes before struggling over the closing holes but he believes Baltray owes him one after he came to the 18th needing an eagle to win two years ago but three putted for par to miss out on a playoff by one.

"The back nine is set up really tight with the pins really tucked away," said Campbell who bogeyed the 14th and 15th and then birdied the 16th before a poor drive and a bunkered third led to a bogey at the last.

"I set myself the target of getting under par and that gives me a good chance going into tomorrow."

Unlucky to meet eventual champion Jack Hume in the quarterfinals of the West, Campbell was inside the top 25 in Irish Amateur Open and also lifted the Warrenpoint before getting to Baltray.

Paul Dunne tangles with the rough at the first.  Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

"I was and Ulster Interpro in 2011 and 2012 and had a poor year last year, so I am back this year and determined to get back on that team," he said. "Two years ago I had a putt for eagle to win this and three-putted for par so it probably owes me one." 

Greystones’ star Dunne (21) confessed that he’s struggling to adapt to Irish conditions after only returning from playing the NCAA Championship with the University of Alabama Birmingham on Thursday.

"I didn't play great," he said. "I struggled a little bit with everything."

After a birdie at the 10th, Dunne bogeyed the 17th and the first before completing a rollercoaster back nine, mixing birdies at the third,  fourth and sixth with bogeys at the fifth and seventh.

"There were some signs of good but in general it was a struggle and tomorrow will be a good day, hopefully. It sets up for a nice day tomorrow. It's just getting use to the wind. I need to hit the ball better off the tee but while I didn't miss short range putts,  I didn't make any mid range putts as I did yesterday."

Adjusting to links golf after a year at UAB will be his toughest task today. 

“The course easy from the fairway but tough from the rough. I am just learning to flight my ball down again as opposed to hitting high, soft shots at the flag in flat calm at the flag. 

“Working the ball against the wind is something I have to get used to again but hopefully today will stand me in good stead for tomorrow.”

Campbell and Dunne lead by a shot from Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty, who added a fine 71 to his opening 70. 

West Waterford’s Gary Hurley is the next best on level par after a controlled 70, tied for fourth with Naas’ Conor O’Rourke, who equalled the best round of the championship with a four under 68.

Check out the photo gallery by golffile.ie

East of Ireland Amateur Open, Sponsored by CityNorth Hotel, Co Louth (Par 72)

Monday's tee-times

1st tee/10th tee

(0700/1312) Lindsay, Shanahan, Coghlan

10th tee/10th tee

(0700/1200) Wylie, Thomas, O'Hara

(0709/1209) Purdy, Egan, Sinclair

(0718/1218) Best, Doran, Lowry

(0727/1227) Ashby, Geraghty, Hopkins

(0736/1236) M O'Rourke, Selfridge, Gorey 

(0745/1245) Smith, Kennedy, Hanna 

(0754/1254) Browne, Hickey, Fox

(0803/1303) Purdy, O'Leary, McGlynn

1st tee/ 1st tee

(0709/1200) Bryan, Bridges, McHugh 

(0718/1209) Carroll, Gleeson, Collins

(0727/1218) Rafferty, Reavey, Le Blanc

(0736/1227) Murray, Anderson, Galbraith

(0745/1236) O'Reilly, McCormack, Grant

(0754/1245) Lenehan, Coulter, Arthurs

(0803/1254) Ryan, Hurley, C O'Rourke

(0812/1303) O'Flaherty, Dunne, Campbell


140 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 72 68, Paul Dunne (Greystones) 68 72

141 Gary O'Flaherty (Cork) 70 71

144 Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 76 68, Gary Hurley (West Waterford) 74 70

145 Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin) 75 70, Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.) 75 70, Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 70 75, Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 69 76

146 Aaron Grant (Dundalk) 75 71, Brian O'Reilly (Athenry) 74 72, Eddie McCormack (Galway) 74 72, Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) 73 73, John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) 73 73, Pat Murray (Limerick) 72 74 , Kevin Le Blanc (The Island) 71 75 , Paul Reavey (Warrenpoint) 70 76, 

147 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 78 69, Gary Collins (Rosslare) 74 73, Chris Carroll (Shandon Park) 72 75, Alex Gleeson (Castle) 72 75, Harry McHugh (Skerries) 68 79

148 Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 74 74, Simon Bryan (Delgany) 73 75, Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock) 71 77

149 Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr) 79 70, James Lindsay (North West) 76 73, Tony O'Leary (Wexford) 76 73, James Fox (Portmarnock) 76 73, Ally Purdy (Ballyclare) 76 73, Shane McGlynn (Carton House) 76 73, John Hickey (Cork) 75 74, Stephen Browne (Hermitage) 75 74, William Hanna (Kilkeel) 74 75, Caolan Kennedy (Forrest Little.) 73 76, Eugene Smith (Ardee) 72 77, Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud) 71 78

150 Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park) 78 72, Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) 77 73, Mark O'Rourke (Royal Tara) 77 73, Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 76 74, Liam Ashby (Naas) 76 74, Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) 75 75, Connor Doran (Banbridge) 75 75, Ben Best (Rathmore) 74 76, Michael Sinclair (Knock) 71 79

151 Keith Egan (Carton House) 77 74, Phillip Purdy (Shandon Park) 76 75, Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo) 75 76, Alan Thomas (Dungarvan) 74 77, Matthew Wylie (Portugal) 73 78

Non Qualifiers

151 Jamie Richardson (Royal Portrush) 72 79

152 Christopher Maclean (Balmore Ltd) 80 72, Sean Barry (Fota Island) 78 74, Matthew McClean (Balmoral) 77 75, Thomas O'Connor (Athlone) 77 75, Alexander Wilson (Portmarnock) 77 75, Niall Goulding (Portmarnock) 76 76, Colin Fairweather (Knock) 76 76, Keith Crowley (Fota Island) 75 77, Joe Lyons (Galway) 75 77, Jim Carvill (Banbridge) 75 77, Stephen Healy (Claremorris) 74 78

153 Eoin O'Connor (Elm Park) 82 71, Jonathan Gourley (Shandon Park) 82 71, Paul Burke (Mullingar) 80 73, Gary McDermott (Carton House) 77 76, Damien McCusker (Moyola Park) 77 76, Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 77 76, Liam Harnett (Milltown) 77 76, Bryan McSweeney (The Royal Dublin) 77 76, Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 76 77, Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) 76 77, Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth) 76 77 , Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 76 77 , Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) 75 78 , Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 75 78,

154 Evan Farrell (Ardee) 80 74, Kevin Stack (Dungarvan) 79 75, Desmond Morgan (Mullingar) 78 76, Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) 77 77, Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin) 76 78, Marc Boucher (Carton House) 76 78, Greg Mungovan (Headfort) 75 79, James Sugrue (Mallow) 75 79, Daniel Brennan (Shannon) 74 80

155 Rowan Lester (Hermitage) 81 74, Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) 79 76, Edward O'Keeffe (Corrstown) 78 77, Sean Maloney (Dunmurry Springs) 77 78, Thomas Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) 76 79, Gareth Bohill (Co. Louth) 75 80, John Greene (Portmarnock) 74 81

156 Stephen Brady (Co. Sligo) 82 74, Greg Carew (Edenderry) 80 76, Ian O'Rourke (The Royal Dublin) 79 77, Roy Connolly (Palmerstown Stud) 78 78, Noel Crawford (Mourne) 78 78, Mark Mullen (Wexford) 78 78 , Ronan O'Reilly (Headfort) 77 79 , Stephen Egan (Castle Barna) 77 79 , Karl Purcell (Dun Laoghaire) 76 80 , Daniel Holland (Castle) 75 81,

157 Padhraic O'Brien (Co. Louth) 81 76, Ryan O'Dwyer (Callan) 80 77, James Monaghan (The Royal Dublin) 80 77, Paul Coughlan (Moate) 78 79, Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) 78 79, Ryan Symington (Lisburn) 77 80 , Shaun Carter (Stackstown) 76 81,

158 Keagan Cummings (Elm Park) 82 76, Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) 80 78, Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 80 78, David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 80 78, Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo) 79 79, Paraic Connolly (Killeen Castle) 79 79, Niall Foley (The Island) 79 79, Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock) 79 79, Alec Myles (Newlands) 78 80, John McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown) 78 80, Kenny McGarry (Castlemartyr) 76 82, Shaun O'Connor (Luttrellstown Castle) 75 83

159 Alan Dowling (Hermitage) 82 77, Neville Steedman (Courtown) 82 77, David Lally (Mullingar) 81 78, Ruairi Kennelly (Portmarnock) 79 80, Daniel Coyle (Co. Louth) 79 80, Allan Kiernan (Forrest Little.) 79 80, Jonathan Yates (Naas) 78 81

160 David Brady (Co. Sligo) 81 79, Angus Carrick (Douglas Park) 81 79, Eoghan O'Donovan (Craddockstown) 81 79, William Russell (Clandeboye) 79 81, David Reddan (Nenagh) 79 81, Thomas Kennedy (Woodbrook) 78 82

161 Declan O'Neill (Carton House) 81 80, Ian Lynch (Rosslare) 80 81

162 David Carey (Carton House) 79 83

163 Michael Lancaster (Canada) 85 78, Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle) 82 81, Quentin Carew (Edenderry) 80 83, Edward Ryan (Lucan) 80 83

165 Stephen McCarthy (Black Bush) 81 84

166 Paul Flynn (Tramore) 85 81, Craig Melvin (Corrstown) 79 87

167 Liam Hutchinson (The Royal Dublin) 86 81, Robbie Pierse (Grange) 83 84

169 Declan Loftus (Castlebar) 83 86

171 Chris Tormey (Corballis Links) 85 86

WD/DQ Martin O'Toole (Lucan) 83 WD, Theo Coffey (Slieve Russell) 88 WD, Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park) DQ DQ, Shane Hogan (Nenagh) 82 WD, Lee McMillan (Craddockstown) WD, Gerard Lawlor (Rathsallagh) WD, Matthew Kane (Whitehead) WD