County Louth’s Thomas Mulligan defied winds gusting up to 25 mph to set the pace with a sensational 69 as just four players broke par in the first qualifying round of the AIG Irish Amateur Close at Ballyliffin.
But while the 17-year old Boys international was thrilled with his three under effort, he’s not getting ahead of himself and thinking of a maiden championship victory just yet.
“I thought a score around 75 would be good today because it’s quite windy,” said Mulligan, whose ambition is simply to make the leading 64 on Wednesday and qualify for the Thursday's matchplay stages. “But I played quite well and I’ve been playing well coming into it.”
After losing 9 and 7 to the always unpredictable Robbie Pierse in the last 16 in Tramore 12 months ago, the promising Mornington player knows anything can happen in matchplay.
“It would be unbelievable but there’s a hell of a long way to go,” Mulligan said. "Last year I came second in qualifying and then I was walloped in the last 16, so I’ll just take it round by round and just keep trying to build on it.”
Just four players broke par on the testing Glashedy Links with 20-year old Tramore international Robin Dawson just a shot behind Mulligan after a 70.
“Very pleased in those conditions,” said Dawson, who was a hero for Ireland in last weekend’s third successive Home Internationals success.
“It was really stress-free golf. A lot of fairways and greens. I didn’t put myself under pressure out there at all really. It was very enjoyable. No complaints.”
One of the key singles winners in Ireland’s third successive Home Internationals win at Nairn in Scotland on Sunday, Dawson said he felt no fatigue despite the hectic schedule.
“Very refreshed,” he said. “I had a swim in the sea yesterday as well. I’m feeling really fresh and ready to go again tomorrow.
“I had a really nice birdie on the 13th, that was definitely one shot up on the field. Back right pin. Hit driver, 2 iron and then hit 9 iron from 100 yards and then holed a 12-footer, always nice to see 12 footers go in.
“I birdied 17, hit a 9-iron from 100 yards to about three feet. My wedge play was really good in those conditions.”
Bunkered off the tee at the ninth, he got up and down from 80 yards for par, holing a four footer for 70.
Irish Amateur Open champion Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint also showed his resilience, dropping his only shot of the day at his final hole for a one under 71 and a share third tied with Irish team mate and 2014 “Close” champion John Ross Galbraith from Whitehead.
Still recovering from the exertions of his heroics for Ireland in a third successive Home Internationals win, Campbell was very pleased with his round.
“It would have been nice to get in bogey-free,” said Campbell, whose only dropped shot of the day came at his final hole, the ninth.
“It’s not playing easy in any shape or form. One under, I would have taken it at the start of the day.
“I think I missed four greens, so I’m playing very solidly. If you hit the fairway out there, it just makes life a lot easier."
Defending champion Tiarnan McLarnon is tied 16th despite a 76 and remains confident he's got enough in the tank despite playing a club match for Massereene on Sunday, so soon after his international debut.
“I didn’t play too bad today, just a lot of mistakes around the greens,” McLarnon said. “I didn’t hit it poorly, just silly mistakes in the end. I birdied the last there so hopefully get a quick start tomorrow and make it into the last 64.”
On losing the Senior Cup with Massereene, he said: “It’s always good to play for your club. Unfortunately we were beaten but it would have been nice to have another day’s rest before coming here. I’m feeling fine.”
There were many victims of the weather with Castle international Alex Gleeson shooting 79, Mullingar Scratch Cup winner Ronan Mullarney an 81 and Waterford’s Eanna Griffin an 83.
Mullarney was two over to the turn but having started on the back nine, his day went downhill quickly when he dropped eight shots in three holes by following a quintuple bogey nine at the first with a triple bogey seven at the third.
He bounced back with birdies at the fourth and sixth but bogeyed the eighth to end the day on nine over.
AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, Ballyliffin GC (Glashedy Links, Par 72)
Qualifying, Round One
69 Thomas Mulligan (Co. Louth)
70 Robin Dawson (Tramore)
71 Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint), John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead)
72 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk)
73 Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), Conor O'Rourke (Naas)
74 Michael Ryan (New Ross), Owen Crooks (Bushfoot)
75 Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), James Sugrue (Mallow), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Gary Collins (Rosslare), Kyle McCarron (North West), Alan Lowry (Esker Hills)
76 Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin), Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush), Sean Broe (Forrest Little.), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Peter Cummins (Lurgan), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), Paul Murphy (Rosslare), Michael Young (Ring Of Kerry)
77 Robbie Pierse (Grange), John Murphy (Kinsale), Jonathan Yates (Naas), Philip Kelly (Co. Armagh), Anthony McDaid (Palmerstown Stud), Garrett Mallon (North West), Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park)
78 Jack Mc Donnell (Forrest Little.), John Hickey (Cork), Paul Doherty (Ballyliffin), Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), Rory Williamson (Holywood), Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), Rob Brazill (Naas), William Russell (Clandeboye), Ben Best (Rathmore), Marc Norton (Belvoir Park), Colin Fairweather (Knock), John Cleary (Elm Park)
79 Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), Colm Hughes (Galway), Daniel O'Connor (Athlone), Eugene Smith (Ardee), Alan Gaynor (Co. Sligo), Alex Gleeson (Castle), TJ Ford (Co. Sligo), Ross Dutton (Tandragee), Shane O'Connor (Castlebar), Ian Lynch (Rosslare), Matthew Fitzsimons (Ardglass), William Small (Tandragee), Stephen Barker (Mourne), Aaron Kearney (Castlerock), Marc Nolan (Delgany), Mark Timmins (Coollattin), Graeme Arthur (Carrickfergus), Joe Lyons (Galway)
80 Alec Myles (Newlands), Cathal Nolan (Galway), Aaron Grant (Dundalk), Stefan Greenberg (Tandragee), Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis)
81 Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Fergal Kennedy (The Island), David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin), Cathal Butler (Kinsale), Marc McCormack (Ashbourne), Michael McCormick (Ireland), Gary Ward (Kinsale), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu), Nils Conway (Grange), Ruairi O'Connor (Co. Sligo), Darragh O'Connor (Fota Island), Ross Steedman (Courtown), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Kieran Lynch (Skibbereen)
82 Ryan O'Doherty (Enniscrone), David Brady (Co. Sligo), Jack Walsh (Castle), Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire), Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), Stephen Lindsay (Bangor), Alan Doherty (Corrstown), Richard Tighe (Elm Park), Neil McKinstry (Cairndhu), Tony Cleary (Woodstock), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle), James McVicker (Knock)
83 Gareth Mann (Tullamore), Evan Farrell (Ardee), Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay), Daniel Vaughan (Ardglass), James Maginn (Mourne), David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), Liam Grehan (Mullingar), Peter Hasson (City of Derry), Andrew Magee (Powerscourt), Aidan Claffey (Elm Park), Robert Moran (Castle), Peter McKeever (Castle), Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Kealan Quigg (North West), Michael Dallat (Galgorm Castle)
84 Harry Gillivan (Westport), Jack Blake (The Island), Charles McGoldrick (Enniscrone), Bill Murray (Waterford Castle), Michael Sinclair (Knock), James Temple (Portmarnock), Adam Mulhall (Ardglass), Luke Bradley (North West)
85 Ben Murray (Waterford Castle), Paul Tobin (Cork), Jason Conway (Donegal), Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo), John McCarthy (Stackstown)
86 Alastair McQuillan (Cushendall), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth), Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint)
87 Brendan Devlin (Ballyliffin), Stephen Kinch (Hollystown), Colum Kenny (Portmarnock), Eoin O'Brien (Clontarf), Ronan O'Callaghan (Mannan Castle)
88 Luke O'Dwyer (Forrest Little.), Jordan Logue (Hilton Templepatrick), Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo), Colin Woodroofe (Blainroe), Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire)
89 Darragh Conlon (Athenry), Shane Crilly (Co. Louth)
90 Peter Kane (Ashbourne), Ted Harman (Balmoral)
91 Johnny Ward (Banbridge).
WD/NR/RET Patrick Dallat (Galgorm Castle), Niall O'Reilly (Clonmel), Jamie Doyle (Forrest Little.), Caolan Kennedy (Forrest Little.), Colm Crowley (Woodbrook), Andrew McCormack (Castletroy), Paul McGuigan (Foyle).