East: Baltray keeps the hotshots on their toes
Jack Pierse (Portmarnock). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Jack Pierse (Portmarnock). Picture by Pat Cashman

Baltray has a habit of lulling the confident player into a false sense of security, but while 22 players broke par in a fresh southeasterly wind on the opening day of the East of Ireland Amateur Open, nobody escaped bogey-free.

More than one was left to regret momentary lapses but Portmarnock's Jack Pierse was one of those happier than most as he raced to four under after four holes, threw those shots away in the space of four holes mid-round, then birdied three of his last five.

It all added up to a three-under 69 and a share of the first-round lead with Esker Hills' Alan Lowry, Laytown and Bettystown's David Foy and Dun Laoghaire's Colin Woodroofe, one shot ahead of Cork’s John Hickey, Carton House’s Des Morgan, Laytown and Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty and Castle’s Daniel Holland.

Pierse, a 26-year old accountant, admits that it would be a dream come true if he could bounce back from defeat to Barry Anderson (73) in the final of the "West" at Easter and claim the "East" at County Louth on Monday.

He loves Baltray, as he showed last year when he played in the final group on Monday and was forced to settle for a share of 11th behind wire-to-wire winner Paul O'Hanlon after his putter decided to go on strike.

His putter was hot and cold in the East's first Friday start. But like his co-leaders, he was pleased wit the overall result if not quite daring to dream yet of some redemption for his West of Ireland reverse.

“It would make up for Rosses Point - absolutely,” beamed Pierse, who made a 10 footer for birdie at the first, drilled a five iron to eight feet at the second and made eagle before pitching close to birdie the fourth to get to four-under par after four. He was even robbed of a birdie after a great pitch to the third,

"There's a very long way to go but a win anywhere would be great," said Pierse. "And I love the course. It fits my eye because you feel you can birdie every hole, providing you put it in position off the tee."

Pierse confessed that he “lost it a bit“ in the middle of the round, sandwiching a four-putt double bogey six at the 10th between three-putt bogeys at the eighth and 11th before rediscovering his putting touch to make birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th coming home.

Colin Woodroofe. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Colin Woodroofe. Picture by Pat Cashman

Like Pierse, Lowry is also in the accountancy game and he credited evening golf at Castle for keeping him sharp as he made five birdies and two bogeys.

"I just said to myself, make five birdies because you are going to make the odd mistake," Lowry said, pleased as punch with his opener.

Foy and Woodroofe both made five birdies and two bogeys but with just five shots cover the top 70, it's still very much anyone's game.

The leaders have a one-stroke lead over Cork’s John Hickey (he made only one bogey), Carton House’s Des Morgan,  Laytown and Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty and Castle’s Daniel Holland.

Defending champion Paul O'Hanlon was on course to open up a big lead when he raced to five-under par after six holes.

But he lipped out from eight feet for another birdie at seventh and confessed that mental errors cost him as he let his sensational start slip away.

After following four successive birdies from the first with another at the par-five sixth, former professional O'Hanlon bogeyed the eighth, 10th, 13th and 16th as the wind freshened for the afternoon starters,  carding a one-under 71 to end the day in a 14-man logjam for ninth place with the likes of 16-year old Kilkenny star Mark Power.

“It was a dream start,” said the Kildare native, who found three fairway bunkers coming home. "I'm five under after six and thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ But I made two or three mental errors that were a bit unlike me after that and my putter went a little cold.

"I drove into bunkers on the eighth, 10th and 16th and just hit a bad second shot at the 13th, and with the greens firm and the wind getting up, I let a few slip.”

"It could have been a great day but I'll take it. I just love this place, and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow."

East of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, County Louth (Par 72)

Round One  (SSS:74; CSS: 74)

Detailed scores

69 D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), A Lowry (Esker Hills), J Pierse (Portmarnock), C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire);

70 J Hickey (Cork), D Morgan (Carton House), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), D Holland (Castle);

71 B Murray (Waterford Castle), P O’Hanlon (Carton House), G O’Flaherty (Cork), C Denvir (Elm Park), A McDaid (Palmerstown Stud), R Black (Hilton Templepatrick), R Moran (Castle), P Murray (Clontarf), P Coughlan (Moate), S O'Connor (Luttrellstown Castle), M Power (Kilkenny), G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), G Carr (Mullingar), J Carvill (Banbridge);

72 J Whelan (Newlands), P Kerr (Royal Portrush), G Collins (Rosslare), G Lappin (Belvoir Park), L Donnelly (Kilkenny), R Kelly (Tuam), J Greene (Portmarnock), J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little),  R Brazill (Naas),  S Flanagan (Co. Sligo),  A Hickey (Ballyhaunis),  S Cullen (Slieve Russell),  M Nolan (Delgany),  D Coghlan       (Portmarnock), J Murphy (Kinsale), R Pierse (Grange);

73 G Mungovan (Headfort), J Knipe (Royal Portrush), S Bleakley (Shandon Park), B Anderson (The Royal Dublin), M O’Rourke (Royal Tara), R Cannon (Balbriggan), E Farrell (Ardee), G Ward (Kinsale), R Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire), M Kennelly (Athenry), K Murphy (Charlesland), T McLarnon (Massereene), M Looby (Greystones);

74 C Butler (Kinsale), J Sugrue (Mallow), J Walsh (Castle), C O'Connor (Corrstown), M Norton (Belvoir Park), S Garrett (Portstewart), E Leonard (Wentworth/Killiney), C Rafferty (Dundalk), P O'Brien (Co. Louth), S Doyle (The Island), R Knightly (The Royal Dublin), D Brennan (Shannon), A Hill (Athenry), S Sweeney (USA),  R Dutton (Tandragee),  T Ford (Co. Sligo),  Z Glynn (Bray),  A Myles (Newlands),  M Morrisey (Co. Sligo);     

75 R Williamson (Holywood), J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), G Lenehan (Portmarnock), E Griffin (Waterford), K McCarron (North West), M McKinstry (Cairndhu), S Healy (The Royal Dublin), W Small (Tandragee), D Brophy (castleknock), K LeBlanc (island), R Neville (The Links Portmarnock), L Grehan (Mullingar);

76 G Smyth (Clonmel), D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), D Morley (Oughterard), G McDermott (Carton House), M Boucher (Carton House), R Hynes (The Royal Dublin), T Collins (Dun Laoghaire), N Grant (Shandon Park), S Greenberg (Tandragee);

77 P Murphy (Rosslare), C Raymond (Newlands), A Dowling(Hermitage), J McVicker (Knock Golf Club), G Bohill (Co. Louth), M Fitzsimons (Ardglass), J Brady (Rosslare), D Reidy (Co. Sligo), G Dunne (Co. Louth), S Carter (The Royal Dublin), A Maguire (Laytown & Bettystown);

78 A Grant (Dundalk), D Crawford (Bundoran), J McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown), C Nolan (Galway), S McGlynn (Portmarnock), H Foley (The Royal Dublin), M Kane (Larne), J Doherty (Carton House), T Hackett (The Royal Dublin), C Kelly (USA);

79 M Shanahan (Castlemartyr), S Kinch (Hollystown), W Russell (Clandeboye), C Dullaghan (Greenore), I Lynch (Rosslare), S Desmond (Monkstown);

80 P Carey (Nenagh), E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown), E Murphy (Dundalk);

81 D O’Neill (Carton House), D Coyle (Portmarnock);

82 D Smith (Castle), G McGrane (The Royal Dublin), D Brady (Co. Sligo), P O’Sullivan (Old Conna), J Fox (Portmarnock);

84 S Mc Dermott (Co. Cavan), A Doran (Ardee);

RTD R McKinstry (Cairndhu).