David Carey and Declan Loftus were the only home players to match par as Mount Wolseley bared its teeth on the opening day of the Irish Challenge.
Dubliner Carey — already a professional for three years after taking the plunge as a raw 18-year old — made an eagle and six birdies in his level par 72 and was left to wonder what might have been had he not triple bogeyed the first and double bogeyed the eighth on a tough scoring day at the long and testing Tullow venue.
“Having walked off the first three over and off the eighth two over, it’s a pretty good score,” said Carey, who plays on the third tier Europro Tour but hopes to do well at the Q-School in a fortnight. "But if you look back at the other good holes you wonder what might have been."
The highlight of Carey's round was arguably an eagle three at the 12th, where he hit a nine-iron to 20 feet.
But for Gavin Moynihan it was two clutch par putts on the last two greens that helped him grind out a two-over 74.
The touring professional for the host club is hoping to give himself the perfect 23rd birthday present on Sunday by winning his maiden Challenge Tour title.
And while he is six-strokes behind Swede Oscar Lengden after getting few breaks on the greens in an otherwise excellent display, he is pleased with his game as the season reaches a crucial stage.
Ranked 27th on the Road to Oman ranking with the top 15 at the end of the season winning automatic promotion to the European Tour, the two-time Walker Cup player believes he is close to a breakthrough.
“It’s been a solid season,” said Moynihan, who showed his potential when he finished a brilliant tied 14th in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.
“I’ve only missed one cut this year and that's probably the most pleasing part because it shows I have been consistent most weeks.
“I’ve had a lot of top 25s but on this tour, you need to be in the top eight so I have this week and five more and the goal is still to win before the end of the season. If not, I still have Q-School.”
Moynihan was denied on the greens all day until he holed a brace of 10 footers on the last two greens for par on a day of tough scoring.
“It would have been annoying to drop two shots coming in because I thought I played pretty well,” said Moynihan, who finished the day tied for 42nd with Old Conna’s Neil O’Briain and Naas’ Conor O’Rourke, who is making his professional debut.
Carey and Loftus were the best of the 23-strong Irish brigade on a cold, windy day where a two to three-club wind and no run on a rain-softened Mount Wolseley, allowed just 11 players in the 151-strong field to break par.
Last week’s Bridgestone Challenge winner Lengden rode a wave of confidence as he made seven birdies in a four-under 68 to lead by a shot from Italy’s Jacopo Vecchi Fossa.
“It all seems quite easy right now!” Lengden said. “It was a funny day today because I didn’t really play that well, but the putter is still very hot so I’m just going to keep rolling the rock.
“It is a bit of a battle out here with the conditions. I’m not a long hitter so it’s playing super long for me and the greens are very sloping, it’s windy and rainy, so there are a lot of factors that make it tougher.”
As for O’Rourke, 26, he was pleased with his professional debut in testing conditions.
“It was difficult today,” said the 26 year old, who was two over after three holes but played the remainder in level par.
“I enjoyed it but it was tough conditions, pretty blustery, similar to last year actually when I played as an amateur, but it was a bit of a struggle, not easy, but I enjoyed it.
“It would be nice to pick up my first cheque this weekend but we’ll have to see, there’s a lot of golf to go and a lot of work to do, but I’ll do my best tomorrow and see what I can do.”
Four Irish amateurs are in the field with Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan the best of the bunch with a 76 as Tramore’s Robin Dawson shot 77, Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell an 80 and Kilkenny’s Irish Boys champion Mark Power an 83.
Grehan played solidly all day in the group in front of Moynihan but was unfortunate to overshoot the 17th and find himself unplayable against the fence, leading to a double bogey six that turned a 74 into a 76.
The Island's Kevin Le Blanc, who turned professional earlier this summer, was forced to retire late on his back nine with back spasms.
The Dubliner was 11 over par at the time having made a sextuple bogey 10 at his fourth hole (the 13th).
Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort (Par 72)
68 O Lengden (Swe),
69 J Vecchi Fossa (Ita),
70 D Law (Sco), G Forrest (Sco), C Ford (Eng), D Van Driel (Ned),
71 F Maccario (Ita), G Schoeb (Fra), M Baldwin (Eng), J Guerrier (Fra), M Orrin (Eng),
72 J Sarasti (Esp), J Lando Casanova (Fra), C Sordet (Fra), C Koepka (USA), C Braeunig (Ger), R McCarthy (Aus), S Brown (Eng), N Lindstrom (Swe), G Boyd (Eng), M Madsen (Den), M Laskey (Wal), David Carey (Irl), M Ovesen (Den), O Lindell (Fin), Declan Loftus (Irl), H Joannes (Bel),
73 C Del Moral (Esp), J Bower (Eng), J Mullen (Eng), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), J Arnoy (Nor), M Collins (Eng), R Saxton (Ned), J Kunzenbacher (Ger), A Kristiansen (Nor), A Bernadet (Fra), K Samooja (Fin), N Von Dellingshausen (Ger), G King (Eng),
74 D Gaunt (Aus), T Shadbolt (Eng), M Wolf (Ger), Gavin Moynihan (Irl), O Rozner (Fra), Conor O’Rourke (Irl), M Fenasse (Fra), T Perrot (Fra), J Dantorp (Swe), B Poke (Den), J Maw (Eng), W Enefer (Eng), J Wrisdale (Eng), M Nixon (Eng), D Fox (Aus), Neil O’Briain (Irl), M Trappel (Aut), L Acikalin (am) (Tur)
75 Cormac Sharvin (Nir), Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), Chris Selfridge (Nir),
76 Rory McNamara (Irl), Richard Kilpatrick (Nir), Stuart Grehan (am) (Irl)
77 Michael McGeady (Irl), Robin Dawson (am) (Irl),
79 Gary Hurley (Irl), Jeff Hopkins (Irl),
80 Simon Ward (Irl), Colm Campbell Jnr (am) (Irl),
81 Kevin Phelan (Irl), Mark O'Mahony (Irl),
82 Mark Murphy (Irl), Colm Crowley (Irl),
83 Mark Power (am) (Irl),
RETD Kevin Le Blanc (Irl) injured.