Hurley and Mehaffey lead Irish challenges in Spanish tests
Robin Dawson in action at Sherry Golf. Picture courtesy  Real Federación Española de Golf

Robin Dawson in action at Sherry Golf. Picture courtesy Real Federación Española de Golf

Gary Hurley and Olivia Mehaffey lead the Irish challenge after the first qualifying rounds of the Spanish Men's and Ladies Amateur Championships in southern Spain.

With the top 32 players after 36 holes qualifying for the matchplay stages of both events on Friday, they head a small group of just four Irish players inside the projected cut off mark heading into Thursday's second rounds.

Spanish Amateur Open, Men's scores Web | PDF

Spanish Amateur Open, Women's scores Web | PDF

Dermot McElroy and Jack Hume at Sherry Golf. Click to expand. Picture courtesy Real Federación Española de Golf

In the men's championship at Sherry Golf in Jerez, West Waterford's Hurley carded a magnificent, bogey free 70, to share second place on two under par, one stroke behind England's Jonathan Thomson. 

On a day when home favourite Mario Galiano, the world No 3, shot 78 in tricky conditions to end up tied for 83rd spot alongside Walker Cup player Gavin Moynihan from The Island, Faithlegg and Tramore man Robin Dawson and Naas' Jack Hume posted one over 73s to share 19th place.

Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell (76) and Stackstown's Richard Bridges (76) are tied for 58th, Ardee's Eugene Smith (77) and Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan (77) tied 71st, Ballymena's Dermot McElroy (81) tied 106th and Whitehead's John-Ross Galbraith (82) tied 111th after a day when the afternoon starters got the worst of the wind as well as bumpier greens.

WAGR No 3 Mario Galiano. Click to expand. Picture courtesy Real Federación Española de Golf

While Hurley was faultless, Dawson's up-and-down 73 came alive around the turn when he went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par-birdie.

Hume, who was fourth in the European Nations Cup last weekend, played very steadily all day only to run up and unfortunate double bogey at his final hole to join Dawson on one over 73

Campbell, the East of Ireland champion, was frustrated to get to one under par with five holes to play only to struggle coming home and fail to get up and down for "straightforward" pars at the 16th and 17th, leading to his 76.

Moynihan just wasn't himself and being last out struggled to a 78 on the bumpier greens. And it was a similar story for the talented McElroy, who racked up 40 putts in an uncharacteristic 81, despite enjoying a chip-in.

While Bridges, Lenehan and Smith all handled the tricky conditions well, Irish Close champion Galbraith suffered a slight muscle pull during his warm up and struggled to find his rhythm, shooting  82.

Weather conditions are forecast to be similar for Thursday's second round and with 45 players on two over or better already, the cut for the Top 32 looks likely to fall at around three over par.

It will be similar in the Spanish Ladies International Amateur, which is being played at Real Club Pineda in Seville.

England's Inci Mehmet shot a three under 69 to share the first round lead with Italy's Virginia Carta with Olivia Mehaffey's 73 leaving her tied for 14th on one over.

Niamh McSherry (75) is just outsid the Top 32, tied for 34th on three over with 77s for Chloe Ryan and Maria Dunne good enough for joint 49th. Sinead Sexton posted an 83 to share 90th spot.