Laytown and Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty produced one of the great comebacks of the season to grab a share the first round lead in strokeplay qualifying for the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
As scores rocketed into the 80s and even the 90s at the storied Co Clare links — only five players broke par — the 22-year old wielded his putter like a wand and came back from four over after just three holes to card a two under 70 worth a share of top spot with New Forest’s Dessie Morgan.
On a day when 50-year old veteran Eddie Power shot a 72 and his 16 year old son Kevin posted a three over 75 to sit comfortably inside the top 64 who will progress to Friday morning’s first round of matchplay, Geraghty needed all his putting magic to conquer a 20mph southwest wind, slick greens and some challenging pin positions.
Four over after a bogey at the par-five second and a triple bogey seven off a poor drive at the third, Geraghty was out in two over 38 after following a birdie four at the Klondyke (4th) and a bogey four at the Dell (5th) with birdies from 35 feet at the eighth and a foot at the ninth.
He then caught fire on the way home and after a fine four at the 10th, he saved par from 20 feet at the 11th, got up and down from a fairway bunker from 40 yards for birdie at the 12th and then holed birdie putts from 20 feet at the 14th, 25 feet at the 17th and a 10 feet at the 18th.
“I had a 67 in the West this year after a bad first round but considering I was four over after the triple bogey at the third, I was very happy with the way I came back today,” said Geraghty. “I really got the putter going.”
Morgan (34) dropped just one shot at the 16th, where he was bunkered, as he posted a 70 in his first appearance in the South since 2008.
They lead by one stoke from Royal Dublin’s Shaun Carter, Carton House’s Keith Egan and Newcastle West’s Andrew McCormack but while most of the fancied contenders avoided disaster, there were some struggles.
American Ben Corfee birdied four of the first five holes but a quadruple bogey eight at the sixth crushed his dreams of a great score and he came home in 42 for a 78 that left him alongside Rowan Lester with international Richard Bridges a shot further back after a 79.
Morgan, who is now the general manager at New Forest Golf Club after a lifetime playing out of Mullingar, was massively surprised by what he found on his first appearance in the South for seven years.
“I haven’t played at Lahinch since 2008 and even the colour of the clubhouse has been transformed,” he said, referring to the changes carried out since General Manager Paddy Keane came on board at the end of 2011.
“Lahinch just oozes class and you can feel it from the moment you arrive. The new manager and the staff have done an enormous job to bring the club right back to the top. It’s like walking into a different place.”
Morgan, now 34, has yet to win a championship. But three Top-3s in the East and runs to the quarter-finals in North and South and to the final of the West in 2008, where he lost to Shane Lowry, are a testament to the quality of his game.
“I wouldn’t go to the championships if I didn’t feel I could win or at least compete but it’s also a great chance to catch up with old friends too,” he said after making three birdies and just one bogey.
“The winning of the South wouldn’t be my top priority this week, but you never know.”
Justin Kehoe shot a 76 on his return to the South after a 12-year absence, confessing that he had to dig deep and scramble on the way home having been three over early following a bad bounce off a sprinkler at the second and a double bogey at the third.
The top 64 were on six over 78 or better which leaves Lester (78), Bridges (79), Barry Anderson (79), Alan Lowry (79), Gary McDermott (79), Niall Gorey (80) and Conor O'Rourke (81) with work to do.
In other Lahinch news, Faithlegg's Robin Dawson, one of the pre-tournament favourites, was forced to withdraw before the start with tonsilitis.
South of Ireland Amateur Open, Lahinch GC (Par 72)
36-hole strokeplay qualifying, Round One CSS 76
70 Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), Des Morgan (New Forest)
71 Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin), Andrew McCormack (Newcastle West Golf Club), Keith Egan (Carton House Golf Club)
72 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene Golf Club), Eddie Power (Kilkenny Golf Club), Paul McBride (Island), Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin)
73 Robert Cannon (Balbriggan Golf Club), Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley Golf Club), William Hanna (Warrenpoint Golf Club), Barry Daly (Edmondstown Golf Club)
74 Mark MacGrath (Limerick Golf Club), Paul McCarthy (Mallow Golf Club), Simon Bryan (Delgany Golf Club), Michael O'Kelly (Limerick Golf Club), Robert Farrell (New Ross Golf Club), Neil McKinstry (Cairndhu Golf Club), Colin Fairweather (Knock), Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo Golf Club), Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint Golf Club), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock)
75 Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin), Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park Golf Club), Mark Mullen (Rosslare Golf Club), Declan McInerney (Lahinch Golf Club), Pat Murray (Limerick Golf Club), Stephen Healy (Carton House Golf Club), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth Golf Club), Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin), Michael Buggy (Castlecomer Golf Club), Kevin Power (Kilkenny Golf Club)
76 Thomas O'Connor (Athlone Golf Club), Evan Farrell (Ardee), Marc Nolan (Delgany Golf Club), Gary Collins (Rosslare Golf Club), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle Golf Club), Gary O'Flaherty (Cork Golf Club), Paul Murphy (Rosslare Golf Club), Justin Kehoe (Limerick Golf Club)
77 Sean Walsh (Carton House Golf Club), Owen O'Brien (Limerick Golf Club), Ally Purdy (Ballyclare Golf Club), David Finn (Doneraile Golf Club), Tony O'Leary (Wexford Golf Club), Rob Brazill (Naas Golf Club), Stuart Grehan (Tullamore Golf Club), Shane Whooley (Muskerry Golf Club), Ian Spillane (Mallow Golf Club), Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle Golf Club), Greg Mungovan (Headfort Golf Club), Jonathan Breen (Kirkistown Castle Golf Club), Robbie Pierse (Grange), Mark Timmins (Coollattin Golf Club), Stephen Barker (Mourne), Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park Golf Club), Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), John Greene (Portmarnock), Darragh Hogan (Killeen Castle)
78 Ed Stack (Ballybunion Golf Club), Eoghan Long (Monkstown Golf Club), Tommy O'Driscoll (Killarney Golf Club), Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire Golf Club), Gary McGrane (The Royal Dublin), Joe Lyons (Galway Golf Club), Brian Doran (Palmerstown Stud), Eoin O'Connor (Ballybunion Golf Club), Stephen Watts (Cairndhu Golf Club), Daniel Brennan (Shannon), John Hickey (Cork Golf Club), Rowan Lester (Hermitage Golf Club), Michael Reddan (Limerick Golf Club), Ben Corfee (USA), Colm Crowley (Woodbrook Golf Club), Conor Coyne (Youghal Golf Club)
79 Richard Bridges (Stackstown Golf Club), Tristan O'Rourke (Nenagh Golf Club), Jamie O'Shea (Shannon), Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin), Nicky Duggan (Dromoland Golf Club), Graham Nugent (Kilkenny Golf Club), Alan Lowry (Esker Hills), John Conroy (Bray), Declan King (Tramore Golf Club), Gary McDermott (Carton House Golf Club), Thomas Neenan (Lahinch Golf Club), James Monaghan (The Royal Dublin), Dylan Brophy (Castleknock), Gavin Smyth (Clonmel Golf Club), Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell Golf Club)
80 Jack Walsh (Castle), Liam Hutchinson (The Royal Dublin), Dan Murphy (Portarlington Golf Club), Alan Purcell (Adare Manor Golf Club), Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud), Shane McGlynn (Carton House Golf Club), James Sugrue (Mallow Golf Club), Peter Kane (Ashbourne), Ryan O'Doherty (Enniscrone Golf Club), Tony Cleary (Woodstock Golf Club), David Reddan (Nenagh Golf Club)
81 Matthew McClean (Balmoral Golf Club), Peter Sheehan (Ballybunion Golf Club), David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), Karl Purcell (Dun Laoghaire Golf Club), Sean Alley (Co. Tipperary Golf Club), Paul Buckley (Kanturk Golf Club), Liam Grehan (Mullingar Golf Club), Colin Woodroofe (Blainroe Golf Club), Daniel Holland (Castle), Pat Fitzpatrick (Kanturk Golf Club), Conor O'Rourke (Naas Golf Club)
82 Paul O'Sullivan (Bray), Philip Spratt (West Waterford Golf Club), Mathew Kane (Whitehead Golf Club), Eoghan O' Loughlin (Spanish Point Golf Club), Keith Murphy (Charlesland Golf Club), David McMahon (Tralee Golf Club), Jason O'Leary (Dromoland Golf Club), Dale Jackson (Massereene Golf Club), Shane Hogan (Nenagh Golf Club), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Ryan Long (Cairndhu Golf Club), Adam Doran (Ardee), Sean Doyle (Athlone Golf Club), Daniel Hallissey (Muskerry Golf Club)
83 Sean Poucher (Limerick Golf Club), Aaron Moore (Adare Manor Golf Club), Peter Meaney (Cahir Park Golf Club), Karl McCormack (Portarlington Golf Club), Ruairi O'Connor (Co. Sligo Golf Club), John Reynolds (Dungarvan Golf Club), Paul Behan (St. Anne's)
84 Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint Golf Club), Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock), Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little.), Gavin McKenna (Fortwilliam Golf Club)
85 Dean McMahon (Castletroy Golf Club), Ronan O'Grady (Tullamore Golf Club), Scott Campbell (Ballyclare Golf Club), Keith Daniels (Loughrea Golf Club), Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin)
86 Tom Griffin (Crews Hill Golf Club)
87 Paul O'Neill (Shannon)
88 Bob Loftus (Lahinch Golf Club), Brian Gilligan (Woodstock Golf Club)
93 John Richard (France)
95 Ronan Mullane (Dromoland Golf Club)