McGrane and McNamara tied for lead at Galgorm Castle
Damien McGrane. Picture:

Damien McGrane. Picture:

Headfort pair Damien McGrane and Rory McMcNamara are in a seven way tie for the clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed Tayto Northern Ireland Open in partnership with Ulster Bank at Galgorm Castle.

Persistent rain, which started at 4am, forced a delay of six hours with the first groups teeing off at 1.30pm in the afternoon.

Ballymena took 35mm of rain throughout the day when the average for this time of year is usually 2.1mm.

McGrane shares the lead with McNamara, Daniel Gaunt, Sam Hutsby, Bernd Ritthammer and Ben Stow on six under par after first round 65s.

The Kells native reached the turn on three under par after carding three birdies, before carding three more birdies on the back nine to complete a blemish-free round.

“I played lovely from start to finish,” said McGrane. “I hit a lot of good tee shots; I was able to be patient and holed a couple of putts on the front nine.

“It was a stress-free round, which doesn’t happen often. The course has some birdie opportunities, but you have to hit the fairways to have a chance.

“Even after all the rain, the fairways are firm. The greens are soft, but they were very good for us because we were out early.”

McNamara’s stunning finish of an eagle and three birdies propelled him up the leaderboard to a share of first place.

One shot behind the six golfers at the top of the leaderboard is recent Challenge Tour champion Adrien Saddier, and a shot further back are eight golfers on four under par, including tournament ambassador Michael Hoey, who carded a first round 67.

“It’s the best score I’ve ever shot round here,” said Hoey. “There are scores out there and the guys have shot good numbers. 

“There was a point today when I was struggling. I’d bogeyed the third, but dug in well to make par on the sixth hole and then finished with three birdies. I could have easily been two or three over par.”

West Waterford's Gary Hurley was level with eight to play after following two front nine birdies with a double bogey seven at the 10th.

But he finished well with four birdies in his last six for a 67 and an share of ninth as amateur John Ross Galbraith matched Hoey with a three under 68.

Thirteen year old amateur Tom McKibbin was five over through nine holes when play was suspended but it was a day to forget for Alan Dunbar, who made a quintuple bogey 10 at the 18th in an 85.

Tayto Northern Ireland Open in partnership with Ulster Bank, Galgorm Castle Golf Club (Par 71)

Detailed scores

  1. T1 MCGRANE, Damien -6 65
  2. T1 MCNAMARA, Rory -6 65
  3. T9 HURLEY, Gary -4 67
  4. T18 GALBRAITH (AM), JR -3 68
  5. T18 HOEY, Michael -3 68
  6. T18 MORIARTY, Colm -3 6
  7. T27 MCGEE, Ruaidhr -2 9
  8. T39 CALDWELL, Jonathan -1 70
  9. T39 THORNTON, Simon -1 6
  10. T39 BRIDGES, Richard -1 3
  11. T63 SELFRIDGE, Chris Par 71
  12. T63 CAREY, David Par 71
  13. T63 MOYNIHAN, Gavi Par 9 
  14. T63 HUME (AM), Jack Par 9
  15. T63 DILLON, Joe Par 6
  16. T63 McGEADY, Michael Par 6
  17. T63 CAMPBELL JNR (AM), Colm Par 3
  18. T63 MCELROY, Dermot Par 6
  19. T63 SHARVIN, Cormac Par 
  20. 94 O’BRIAIN, Neil +1 9
  21. T94 SHAW, Gareth +1 9
  22. T111 PHELAN, Kevin +2 73
  23. T111 MURRAY, Noel +2 9
  24. T135 MCKIBBIN (AM), Tom +5 9
  25. T139 RAWLUK, David +6 9
  26. T144 FLETCHER (AM), Jamie +7 78
  27. 147 DUNBAR, Alan +14 85
  28. T148 CASEY, Brian Yet to start
  29. T148 HOPKINS, Jef Yet to start
  30. T148 KEARNEY, Niall Yet to start
  31. T148 WHITSON, Reeve Yet to start