Nine shoot 69 as Royal Dublin tests Irish Amateur Open talent

Gavin Moynihan (The Island) driving from the 8th tee in the first round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship at The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Perhaps it was the surreal, dawn presence of lone saxophonist, clearly dispatched to the farthest reaches of the Bull Island to practice his skills, that heralded such an unusual start to the Irish Amateur Open at The Royal Dublin.

As an official went about checking pin positions and tee makers around 6am, he was stunned to hear the strains of a wandering minstrel — he was no John Coltrane — going through the scales as he sat on the boot of his car near the boundary wall separates the par-three ninth from public road beyond.

He hit few sweet notes, we’re told, before he wandered off and it was a similar story on the links as just 25 players broke par in what were, by local standards, benign first round conditions.

As the sun went down, the top 40 on the leaderboard were covered by just three strokes with nine players tied for the first round lead on three under par 69. 

Up and coming Co Louth teenager Thomas Mulligan, the 16-year old winner of the Dundalk Scratch Cup, ended the day at the top of the leaderboard alongside reigning East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell Jnr, Walker Cup player Gavin Moynihan, big-hitting Knock player Colin Fairweather, Walker Cup hopeful Jack Hume from Naas and four overseas raiders in Scotland’s Alexander Culverwell, Welsh pair Evan Griffiths and Richard James and South Africa’s Luke Trocado ended the day one stroke clear of the rest.

Welshman Richard James, runner up in the Lytham Trophy last week, snacking at the 8th tee in the first round at The Royal Dublin Golf Club (07/05/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

West of Ireland champion Dermot McElroy, Irish Close winner John Ross Galbraith, Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson and Rosslare’s Gary Collins were amongst those posting two under 70s while Gary Hurley shot a solid 71 and Ardgalss’ Cormac Sharvin brilliantly came back from three over with six to go in the cool and breezy, late afternoon to card a level par 72.

Hume and Moynihan, who both missed the cut in the Lytham Trophy last week, were delighted with their 69s and share of the lead. 

Moynihan was particularly pleased to rediscover some form after a tough recent spell with the highlight of his round coming at the par-five 14th, where he hit a stunning, 268-yard three wood to four feet to set up an eagle three.

“It’s definitely the best shot of the year so far,” said Moynihan, who birdied the 16th and parred his way home for his 69. “It’s the best I’ve played in a while.

“I’ve been struggling but it’s not that I have been hitting it badly, I have just been scoring horrendously, hitting it in two or three bad spots a round. But look, everyone goes through these phases.”

Moynihan returned early from university in the US citing homesickness but he believes Royal Dublin could be the key that opens the door to a return to form, adding: “I tend to do decently enough round here so hopefully I can keep it going. It’s nice to be back.”

He's certainly not panicking about his Walker Cup place — "It's a long season" — and one presumes that if he shows form, his experience from 2013 is likely to make him a crucial player for skipper Nigel Edwards come September.

Jack Hume (Naas) gets a feel for the line of his putt at The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

It's a similar story for Hume, who despite missing the cut at Royal Lytham last week, has generally  been remarkably consistent for quite some time.

Five birdies and two bogeys — the mistakes were a pair of clumsy three-putts at the fourth and 16th — left Hume happy with his lot having started in relative calm and finished just as the wind was freshening and the temperature dropping around  lunchtime.

"Hopefully I will have a chance to win here but there is still a long way to go," he said. "I definitely want to make the Walker CIp team but it’s still three or four months away so I am not  focussing on it to much.

"It will just come down to form in the end and I am going to try and win some tournaments and hopefully that will take care of that spot. Not that I feel I have to win because I know that if I am playing well, Nigel Edwards will pick players who are in form."

The pick of Hume's five birdies came at the seventh where he had 192 yards into a right to left wind and held up a a five iron, sliding it in to just 10 feet before slotting home the putt.

Fairweather was pleased with his haul of four birdies against a lone birdie at the 10th, even more so because he was battling toothache.

Out in the best of the weather in the first match of the day, Mulligan's 69 was also a thing of beauty as he eagled the second and followed bogeys at the third, fourth and fifth with a sensational homeward nine of four under 33 featuring birdies at the 11th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

Gary McDermott (Carton House). Picture by Pat Cashman

Mulligan made his mark in the Peter McEvoy Trophy just last month, finishing third behind the outstanding Marco Penge, who shot a 71 to match the talented Hurley, last year's joint runner up Tom Gandy, 17-year old Kevin LeBlanc  from The Island, Welshman Tim Harry, Slieve Russell's Seamus Cullen and Hong Kong's Ollie Roberts.

Roberts was one of a handful of players to get to four under par but he took seven at the 18th to fall back into a share of 17th.

It was a happier day for Ulstermen Campbell and McElroy with the former pleased with his five birdie effort.

The reigning East of Ireland champion gave up his day job to dedicate himself to the game full time this year and he was pleased to come back from an erratic start and share of the lead.

“I played nicely and hit the ball pretty solidly which is the main thing,” said Campbell, who is keen to retain his place in the Irish team for the Home Internationals at Royal Portrush later this year before contemplating a trip to the European Tour Qualifying School. 
“I like this course and had a chance to win here a few years ago but I finished a couple of shots out of the playoff between Robbie Cannon and Gavin Moynihan.

Rowan Lester (Hermitage) playing the 11th hole during the first round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship at The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

“I dropped two shots in the first four by starting bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey and the played last 14 in three under, so I’m pleased. It’s be a frustrating start to season but today was much better.” 

McElroy is on a high after his maiden Championship win in the West of Ireland but he's not going to stop there and knows that he's going to have to win again to win a Walker Cup spot before turing his attentions to the Q-School.

As for Sharvin, a brilliant joint second in the Lytham Trophy last weekend, the man from Ardglass went out in the afternoon when temperatures dropped and the wind switched from north to southeast and freshened slightly, making the course considerably tougher than it had been for the morning starters.

The 22 year old was three over par with six holes to play before birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th, followed by two excellent closing pars, got him back to parity.

Hermitage's Rowan Lester, who will be heading for the University of Louisville in the autumn, shot an excellent 72 in the tougher conditions and last year's British Boys runner up is keeping his fingers crossed that he avoids the worst of what is a poor Friday weather forecast.

Jck Hume (Naas) driving at the 8th tee in the first round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship at The Royal Dublin Golf Club (07/05/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

Irish Amateur Open, The Royal Dublin (Par 72)

FIRST ROUND (CSS 75) - Live scoring

69 Thomas Mulligan (Co. Louth), Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint), Gavin Moynihan (The Island), Colin Fairweather (Knock), Alexander Culverwell (Scotland), Evan Griffiths (Wales), Luke Trocado (South Africa), Richard James (Wales), Jack Hume (Naas)

70 William Enefer (England), Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin), John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Gary Collins (Rosslare), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), Robin Dawson (Faithlegg), Lukas Lipold (Austria)

71 Connor Syme (Scotland), Craig Ross (Scotland), Tom Gandy (Isle of Man), Kevin LeBlanc (The Island), Marco Penge (England), Tim Harry (Wales), Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell), Ollie Roberts (Hong Kong)

72 Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass), Vitor Lopes (Portugal), Jack McDonald (Scotland), Greig Marchbank (Scotland), Marco Iten (Switzerland), Tomas Bessa (Portugal), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Markus Habeler (Austria), Stuart Grehan (Tullamore), Kyle McCarron (North West), Marc Nolan (Delgany), John Hickey (Cork), Jonathan Yates (Naas), Christian Braeunig (Germany)

73 Scott Gibson (Scotland), Jack Mc Donnell (Forrest Little.), Michael Hirmer (Germany), Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin), Richard Bridges (Stackstown), Jamie Savage (Scotland), Conor O'Rourke (Naas)

74 Kevin Reints (Netherlands), Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park), Matthew Jordan (England), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), Marcel Zillekens (Germany), Michael Ludwig (Austria), Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin), Ryan Symington (Lisburn), Michael Sinclair (Knock), James Allan (England), Eanna Griffin (Waterford)

75 Jarand Ekeland Arnoy (Norway), Adam Wilson (Wales), Andy Borg (Malta), Shaun O'Connor (Carton House), Damon Coulson (England), Claudio Consul (Germany), Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.), Aaron Grant (Dundalk), Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint), Simon Bryan (Delgany), Christopher MacLean (Scotland), Anthony Blaney (Scotland)

76 Jake Whelan (Newlands), Edward Richardson (England), Ewen Ferguson (Scotland), John Morris (Rosslare), Alex Gleeson (Castle), Gary McDermott (Carton House), Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Ian O'Rourke (The Royal Dublin), Jan Szmidt (Poland)

77 Declan Loftus (Castlebar), Mathias Eggenberger (Switzerland), Axel Boasson (Iceland), Declan O'Neill (Carton House), Colin Baird (Scotland), Stephen Healy (Carton House), Eugene Smith (Ardee), Eoin Leonard (Wentworth), Nick MacAndrew (Scotland), Nicholas Poppleton (England), Ben Best (Rathmore), Gianmaria Rean Trinchero (Italy), Sigot Lopez (Spain)

78 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), Michele Cea (Italy), Gordon Stevenson (Scotland), Michael Hegemann (Germany), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle), James Smedley (England), Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin)

79 Johannes Lube (Germany), Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr), Jack Bush (Wales), James Fox (Portmarnock)

80 Roy Connolly (Palmerstown Stud), Cedomir Ilic (Serbia)

81 Petr Dedek (Czech Republic), Mel Loetscher (Switzerland), Shane McGlynn (Carton House)

82 Murray Naysmith (Scotland), Ashley Mason (England), John McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown)

83 Seve Prins (Netherlands), Paul Coughlan (Moate)

84 Thomas Hackett (USA)

85 Casper Simberg (Finland)