Gary Hurley loves St Andrews and if he keeps it going at the Duke's Course where a five under 66 gave him the first round lead in the European Amateur Championship, the West Waterford man could be back next summer for The Open.
The 21-year-old won the coveted R&A Scholars’ Bursars’ tournament over the Old Course last year and he showed his liking for the area when he fired five birdies in an immaculate opening round to lead by a stroke from Finland's Lauri Ruuska and Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Stow of England.
“I seem to like St Andrews,” said Hurley, who birdied the first, second and ninth and then picked up two more shots at the 10th and 12th. “It wasn’t too bad on the course, a bit of rain, but no wind.”
Hurley, who shot a 66 on Friday in the Irish Open at Fota Island to make the cut with ease, was pleased with his overall game.
"I just played solidly," he reported. "I had plenty of chances and saved par when I was in trouble! I was good from the tee and on the greens."
Only 14 players broke par with world amteur No 5 five Renato Paratore of Italy, 17, tied for fifth on two under par despite three closing bogeys.
“It was a tough day, heavy rain from the first hole but I don’t mind,” said Paratore, who was first out. “But I played really well on the front nine, especially my long game.
"I’ve been playing golf for nine years and I would like to get to No 1 in the world amateur rankings.”
It was a mixed day for Ireland's 13-strong entry with Dermot McElroy tied for 10th after a one under 70 that was marred by a double bogey six at the 16th.
Newly capped Richard Bridges from Stackstown is tied 19th with Naas' Jack Hume after a 72 that featured a triple bogey seven at the fourth.
Cormac Sharvin (73), Robin Dawson (74) and Chris Selfridge (75) were the only other Irish players inside the top 60 who make the cut after three rounds.
The rest had their problems, especially on the front nine.
European Amateur Championship, Duke's Course (St Andrews) Par 71
Hole by hole scoring
1 HURLEY, Gary WestWaterford/NUIM -5 66
T10 MCELROY, Dermot Balymena -1 70
T19 BRIDGES, Richard Stackstown Golf Club +1 72
T19 HUME, Jack Naas +1 72
T28 SHARVIN, Cormac Ardglass Golf Club +2 73
T44 DAWSON, Robin Faithlegg +3 74
T59 SELFRIDGE, Chris Moyola Park +4 75
T73 DUNNE, Paul Greystones +5 76
T101 MOYNIHAN, Gavin The Island +6 77
T101 MCNAMARA, Rory +6 77
T120 LENEHAN, Geoff Portmarnock Golf Club +8 79
T126 MCBRIDE, Paul The Island +9 80
T133 GREHAN, Stuart Tullamore GC +11 82