The days of shooting 60 in Mullingar appear to be long gone after just two players managed to break par in the opening round of the weather-reduced Mullingar Electrical Scratch Trophy.
Noel Fox's 12 under par 60 from 2001 provoked a host of changes at the classic James Braid design and while some of them remain controversial, they certainly had the desired effect and scoring is now far more difficult at a course that had been rendered defenceless by the modern golf ball.
Even with preferred lies in operation for an event reduced from 72 to 54 holes after heavy overnight rain forced the cancellation of the second round, only Woodbrook left-hander Colm Crowley and Carton House’s Shane McGlynn could dip into the red with one under par 71s.
Crowley and McGlynn lead by a shot from New Forest’s Kevin Metcalfe and Castle’s Leinster interprovincial Alex Gleeson, the Leinster Youths champion, as the leading 51 players tee it up in the final two rounds today covered by just seven shots.
Considering the pummelling it took from the elements, the course drained so well that the qualifiers for Monday's final two rounds may be allowed to play the ball as it lies.
But many of the fancied contenders have work to do to challenge with title holder Daniel Holland and Waterford's Eanna Griffin, a semifinalist in the South of Ireland last week, just squeaking in for the last two rounds after 78s.
With many of the top players resting or making their way to St Andrews for the European Amateur Championship, the race for title looks wide open.
There has been no home winner of the event since it was founded in 1963 but a 73 for Liam Grehan will give him hope of breaking that duck, even if he did three-putt the 18th for a disappointing, closing par.
The Mullingar man was three over after just two holes but he birdied the fifth and ninth to get back to just one over and then followed three straight bogeys at the start of the back nine with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 17th.
He ended the day tied for fifth spot with South of Ireland semi-finalist Richard Knightly of Royal Dublin, Knock’s Colin Fairweather, Carton House’s Stephen Healy and Castlemartyr’s Mark Shanahan.
East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell of Warrenpoint and Irish Close champion John-Ross Galbraith from Whitehead are lurking menacingly after two over 74s.
As for the leaders, 21-year old Crowley confessed that he was surprised to find himself tied for the lead at the end of a testing day.
Now playing off a one handicap after finishing a fine fourth behind Campbell in the Dundalk Senior Scratch Cup earlier this season, he birdied the long fourth and the driveable sixth to get to two under par.
Bogeys at the seventh and eighth saw him turn in 35 but after a birdie two at the 12th gave him into the lead, he looked to have blown his chances of a decent opening round when he bogeyed the par-three 15th and then ran up a double bogey seven at the treacherous 16th. where he found water with his approach and three-putted.
His finish bodes well for today’s last two rounds, however, as he birdied the tough 17th from 15 feet and then eagled the 506-yard, par-five 18th, hitting a three wood to six inches — "The best shot of my career."
He was joined in the lead by Senior Cup player McGlynn, who had two bogeys in the middle of his round at the seventh and 13th but more than made amends with birdies at the third, sixth and 16th.
Mullingar Electrical Scratch Trophy, Mullingar Golf Club (Par 72)
71 Colm Crowley (Woodbrook), Shane McGlynn (Carton House)
72 Kevin Metcalfe (New Forest), Alex Gleeson (Castle)
73 Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr), Liam Grehan (Mullingar), Stephen Healy (Carton House), Colin Fairweather (Knock), Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin)
74 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Conor O'Rourke (Naas), Aaron Grant (Dundalk), Brian Doran (Rathsallagh), Billy McGARRY (Birr)
75 Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth), Caolan Kennedy (Forrest Little.), Thomas O'Connor (Athlone), Gerard Lawlor (Craddockstown), Peter Dolan (Athenry), Declan Loftus (Castlebar), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Shaun O'Connor (Luttrellstown Castle)
76 Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu), David McMahon (Tralee), Eoghan O'Donovan (Craddockstown), Allan Kiernan (Forrest Little.), Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell), William Hanna (Kilkeel), Desmond Morgan (Mullingar), John Hickey (Cork), Joe Lyons (Galway), Ruairi O'Connor (Co. Sligo), Stephen Brady (Co. Sligo)
77 Stephen Barker (Mourne), Simon Bryan (Delgany), John Swarbrigg (Mullingar), Alan Lowry (Esker Hills), Ruairi Kennelly (Portmarnock), David Carroll (Grange), Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), Shane Hogan (Nenagh), Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo), Ronan Maher (Mullingar)
78 Paul Reavey (Warrenpoint), Daniel Holland (Castle), Daniel Murphy (Portarlington), Patrick Egan (Esker Hills), Eoin O'connor (Elm Park), Eanna Griffin (Waterford),
78 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene)
79 Jake Whelan (Newlands), Colin Cunningham (Carton House), Lee McMillan (Craddockstown), Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock), Paul Coughlan (Moate), Declan O'Neill (Carton House), Daniel O'Connor (Athlone)
80 Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo), Paul Burke (Mullingar), Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), Sean Poucher (Limerick)
81 Gary Shaw (Mullingar), Niall Carroll (Athlone), Ciaran Blaney (Co. Meath), Paul Fitzgerald (Craddockstown)
82 Shaun Carter (Stackstown), Bernard Bermingham (Carton House), Conor Slevin (New Forest), Lee O'Meara (Castle Barna), Ross Kenny (Naas), Jamal Sabir (Moate), Richard Tighe (Elm Park), David Lally (Mullingar)
83 Gareth Carr (Mullingar), Jack Solan (Rathsallagh), Adam Doran (Ardee)
84 Spencer Adamson (K Club), Thomas Fay (Rush), Edward Ryan (Lucan)
85 Gavin Flanagan (Mullingar), Mark Kelly (Mullingar)
Draw for Monday 4th August
- 06:22/11:22 Eanna Griffin, Waterford; Patrick Egan, Esker Hills; Daniel Murphy, Portarlington
- 06:30/11:30 Daniel Holland, Castle; Paul Reavey, Warrenpoint; Ronan Maher, Mullingar
- 06:38/11:38 Sean Flanagan, Co. Sligo; Shane Hogan, Nenagh; Caolan Rafferty, Dundalk
- 06:46/11:46 Eoin Arthurs, Forrest Little; David Carroll, Grange Ruairi Kennelly, Portmarnock
- 06:54/11:54 Alan Lowry, Esker Hills; Simon Bryan, Delgany; John Swarbrigg, Mullingar
- 07:02/12:02 Stephen Barker, Mourne; Stephen Brady, Co. Sligo; Ruairi O'Connor, Co. Sligo
- 07:10/12:10 Joe Lyons, Galway; John Hickey, Cork; Desmond Morgan, Mullingar
- 07:18/12:18 William Hanna, Kilkeel; Seamus Cullen, Slieve Russell; Eoghan O'Donovan, Craddockstown
- 07:26/12:26 Allan Kiernan, Forrest Little; David McMahon, Tralee; Ryan McKinstry, Cairndhu
- 07:34/12:34 Shaun O'Connor, Luttrellstown Castle; Geoff Lenehan, Portmarnock; Declan Loftus, Castlebar
- 07:42/12:42 Peter Dolan, Athenry; Gerard Lawlor, Craddockstown; Thomas O'Connor, Athlone
- 07:50/12:50 Caolan Kennedy, Forrest Little; Gerard Dunne, Co. Louth; Billy McGarry, Birr
- 07:58/12:58 Brian Doran, Rathsallagh; Aaron Grant, Dundalk; Conor O'Rourke, Naas
- 08:06/13:06 John-Ross Galbraith, Whitehead; Jack Pierse, Portmarnock; Colm Campbell, Warrenpoint
- 08:14/13:14 Richard Knightly, The Royal Dublin; Colin Fairweather, Knock; Stephen Healy, Carton House
- 08:22/13:22 Liam Grehan, Mullingar; Mark Shanahan, Castlemartyr; Alex Gleeson, Castle
- 08:30/13:30 Kevin Metcalfe, New Forest; Shane McGlynn, Carton House; Colm Crowley, Woodbrook