Gary Hurley was never a prolific winner as an amateur despite a great career. But he’s got a chance get off the mark as a professional faster than all this peers as he heads into the final day at the weather affect Montecchia Open by Lyoness at the top of the clubhouse leaderboard.
The 23-year old from West Waterford added a six under 65 to his stunning, opening 63 to post the clubhouse target of 14 under par at Golf della Montecchia.
In an event reduced to 54 holeswith a Monday finish not ruled out if necessary and with the majority of Saturday afternoon’s starters still with holes to play before the final round can start, Hurley will have to wait and see if he remains in front.
Whatever about that, was delighted with is he finished birdie-eagle to lead Jurrian van der Vaart by one shot though England’s Gary King was on 15 under par with five holes of his second round to play when the klaxon halting play was sounded.
“I started well,” Hurley said after a birdie-par-birdie start to his round on the back nine. “I birdied the first but then I kind of struggled a bit until the 18th, my ninth, where I made another birdie, but then on the back nine I found something again with my swing and just hit a lot of good shots.
“I actually had a lot of chances on the back nine and I was disappointed coming onto the eighth tee with the score I was on because I had so many chances and missed a lot of putts.
“Then I holed about a 20 footer on eight for birdie and then I hit two great shots on nine to about two feet – it was probably my shot of the tournament so far, so I’m delighted with my finish it definitely helps.
“I saw the leaderboards as I was going round, I saw where I stood. I saw there was a guy in the clubhouse on 13 under so, coming off the eighth on 12 under, I just wanted to hit two good shots and give myself a chance for eagle, which I did, and holed it.
“I’m comfortable looking at the leaderboards, it doesn’t bother me – I’d prefer to know than not know because otherwise I’d be worrying about it and wondering. It’s hard not to look as well, there’s a lot of them out there.”
The Challenge Tour reported that “Hurley, a member of last year’s victorious Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team, has caught the eye this week for his unconventional method of lining up putts.”
It’s a method also used by Jack Hume and others though many of his peers would regard Hurley as a master green reader.
“I use the AimPoint Express technique,” he said. “I feel the slope of the green with my feet and give it a value between one and six – anything more than that would be a complete guess.
“I feel with my feet if my weight is a bit more on one side and I recognise the value which I’ve taught myself and I just know how far outside the hole to hit it then based on the speed of it going a foot past the hole.
“I started doing it about three years ago and it’s definitely improved my putting by about 150%, it’s an unbelievable difference, so I’ll continue doing it and hopefully get better at it.”
A stellar amateur career is no guarantee of making the transition into professional ranks, but Hurley credited the presence of compatriots at the same stage of their careers for helping him feel so comfortable in paid ranks so quickly.
“I’m staying in an apartment with two Irish lads, Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin,” he said. “It definitely helps being out here on tour with them.
“There were a lot of us Irish boys who all turned pro last year and it’s nice to share the journey with them because we inspire each other and lift each other.
“I was nervous today but that’s all part of it – if you don’t want nerves, that’s the bad thing. I look at nerves as being good, it shows that you care, it’s just learning how to control them. I learned a lot today about myself and hopefully I can learn a bit more tomorrow.”
King, who had just rolled in a birdie on the 14th to move to 15 under par, and into the overall lead, when the klaxons sounded and the course was evacuated.
One shot behind van der Vaart on 12 under par is American John Hahn who shot a second successive 65 for another strong week following a top ten finish in the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
Phelan was the next best of the Irish, one under for his round after 12 holes and tied for 35th on six under par.
Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee had made 12 successive pars to be tied 44th on five under while Moynihan (71-70) and Sharvin (72-69) were three shots outside the projected four under par cut mark.