Irish Close: Coughlan leads as Galway shows its teeth
 Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) driving at the 18th tee during the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club (22/08/2017). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) driving at the 18th tee during the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club (22/08/2017). Picture by Pat Cashman

Just ten players broke par but the GUI was the big winner on day one of the AIG Irish Amateur Close as the 132-strong field averaged just under four hours to get around Galway Golf Club.

With “Ready Golf” in operation, the time par was set at 4 hours 15 minutes and the field raced around in quarter-of-an-hour less with Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan the pace-setter as he overcame a stomach bug to open with a four-under par 66.

“Yesterday, I definitely wasn’t playing,” said the 25-year old, who leads by a stroke from Co Sligo’s David Brady and Co Cavan’s Shane McDermott in the race to make the top 64 tonight. 

"Even this morning I was 50-50. I haven’t been able to eat since Friday. I think it’s food poisoning.”

Coughlan was one over par after just two holes but he made five birdies after that on a day when some of the big guns struggled

“It’s my lowest round of the year,” added Coughlan, who had just 27 putts after moving the ball back in his stance on the advice of Castleknock professional Ryan Donagher.

"The greens are slower than they look but they are pure. Finding the fairway is key around here.”

Starting at the 10th, Coughlan followed a bogey at the 11th with a birdie at the 16th to be out in level par before coming home in 31 thanks to birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and eighth.

Just four members of the Irish team that won the Home Internationals for the fourth year running last week are in action and they enjoyed mixed fortunes.

Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty shot a 71, Tramore’s Robin Dawson a three-over 73 and defending champion Alex Gleeson a 75 as Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell overcame a quadruple bogey eight at his seventh hole (the 16th) and finished eagle-birdie-birdie for a level par 70.

“It was a bad eight,” Campbell said of his bunker trouble at the 16th. “There’s never a good eight but that was definitely a bad eight.”

He made amends with his finish, rolling in a 35 footer for an eagle at the seventh before picking up two more shots at the eighth and ninth.

Gleeson had three double bogey sixes in a 75 that leaves him tied for 81st with South of Ireland champion James Sugrue and outside the top 64.

“It was a very frustrating round,” said Gleeson, who like many players, failed to get a practice round after heavy rain closed the course on Monday. 

“I was struggling off the tee and on the greens, so it wasn’t ideal.”

West of Ireland champion Barry Anderson carded an adventurous, one-over 71 and paid tribute to the quality of the test.

“You’re on a knife-edge on every hole,” the Royal Dublin man said. “Once you get your tee shot away, it’s very scoreable. But it’s tight off the tee.

“Anything under par is always good around Galway. It’s a par 70, there are only two par fives and they’re not gimme birdies by any means.”

AIG Irish Close Championship, Galway Golf Club (Par 70)

First round

Detailed scores

66 P Coughlan (Castleknock)

67 D Brady (Co. Sligo); S Mc Dermott (Co. Cavan)

68 D Kitt (Athenry)

69 T Ford (County Sligo Golf Club); R Knightly (The Royal Dublin); J McCarthy (Stackstown); A Hill (Athenry); P Kerr (Royal Portrush); T Plunkett (Crover House)

70 J Walsh (Castle); M Shiel (Galway Bay); M Grehan (Tullamore); C Feeney (Co. Sligo); J Lyons (Galway); T Cleary (Woodstock); S Cullen (Slieve Russell); W Small (Tandragee); C Campbell (Warrenpoint)

71 B Anderson (The Royal Dublin); R McKinstry (Cairndhu); L Nolan (Galway); M O'Farrell (Galway); N Hearns (Mountrath); S Flanagan (Co. Sligo); T Nolan (Galway); R Cannon (Balbriggan); J Tuohy (Galway Bay); E Farrell (Ardee); C Rafferty (Dundalk); J Knipe (Royal Portrush); L Power (Galway); A McDaid (Palmerstown Stud); J Fox (Portmarnock)

72 C Hughes (Galway); J McVicker (Knock); J Temple (Portmarnock); D Coyle (Portmarnock); C Raymond (Newlands); D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown); J Brady (Rosslare); J Yates (Naas); J Fletcher (Warrenpoint); B Timlin (Galway); M Ryan (New Ross); R Black (Hilton Templepatrick); M Norton (Belvoir Park); A Ryan (Thurles); B Shally (Dromoland); H Foley (The Royal Dublin); R Moran  (Castle); L Grehan (Mullingar); R O'Connor (Co. Sligo); W Russell (Clandeboye); T O'Connor (Athlone)

73 E Murphy (Dundalk); H Gillivan (Westport); C Butler (Kinsale); J Maginn (Mourne); J Hood (Galgorm Castle); C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire); R Pierse (Grange); J Doherty (Ballina); P Brennan (Belvoir Park); S Healy (The Royal Dublin); R Dawson (Tramore); O Crooks (Bushfoot); S Brady (Galway); R Mullarney (Galway); T McLarnon (Massereene)

74 C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire); C Martin (Kilkenny); J Whelan (Newlands); J Blake (The Island); K McCarron (North West); C Denvir (Elm Park); A Hickey (Ballyhaunis); D Glynn (Galway Bay); G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick); E Griffin (Waterford)

75 R Brazill (Naas); M McKinstry (Cairndhu); A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire); C Glennon (Glasson); T Smyth (Castle); S Kenneally (Kinsale); G Mann (Tullamore); T Collins (Dun Laoghaire); M Burke (Galway); A Gleeson  (Castle); E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown); A Comerford (Galway); J Sugrue (Mallow); E McCormack (Galway Bay); R O'Doherty (Enniscrone)

76 K Lynch (Skibbereen); M McKenna (Dun Laoghaire); G Smyth (Clonmel); S McGlynn (Portmarnock); M Healy (Kinsale); C Nolan (Galway); J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little)

77 A Gaynor (Co. Sligo); J Quinn (The Island); D McAleenon (Edenmore); T Probst (Strandhill); R Dutton (Tandragee); J McKenna (St Patricks); T Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown)

78 R Tighe (Elm Park); A Wilson (Portmarnock); A Mulholland (Castlerock); P Carey (Nenagh); E Collins (Laytown & Bettystown); S Desmond (Monkstown); D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh); J Mc Quaid (Rossmore)

79 R Browne (Castle); D O'Connor (Fota Island); M Murphy (Clandeboye )

80 M Power (Kilkenny); A Moore (Adare Manor); D Smith  (Castle)

81 C Waters (Lahinch); S Doyle (Athlone); L O'Neill (Connemara)

82 C Kelly (Fort Lauderdale)

83 C Henry (Strandhill); C Dowling (Mallow)

84 N Carroll (Athlone); J Hickey (Cork)

NR J Foley (Letterkenny).