O'Rourke defies high winds at Portmarnock Links; Byrne brothers 1-2 in Nett
 Conor O'Rourke. Picture © Jimmy Penrose

Conor O'Rourke. Picture © Jimmy Penrose

Conor O’Rourke needed just eight clubs to defy a southerly wind gusting more than 30 mph to win the gross in the TaylorMade Winter Series at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links.

Responding to a challenge from his coach, Naas professional Gavin Lunny, the former Irish international and St Andrews Links Trophy winner carded a superb, two-over 73 to win by a whopping five strokes from Flogas Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O’Keeffe from Douglas, whose seven-over 78 is believed to be the highest score to win a gross prize in the series in the last two years.

“Gavin thought it would be a good exercise to get my imagination going,” reported O’Rourke, who used only his driver, two, four, six and eight irons, his pitching and 56-degree wedges and his putter to negotiate his way around a links created by Bernhard Langer and Stan Eby.

As for the nett, last week's winner, plus-one handicapper Joseph Byrne from Baltinglass had to settle for second place behind his older brother William, who shot a 72 off three to beat him by three shots. 

O'Rourke — who was using just eight clubs in response to a challenge from his coach, Gavin Lunny — was the clear winner of what was an endurance test for the 50-strong field with a stiff southerly wind forcing most players to hit a driver or three-wood into the par-three 17th.

O'Rourke went out in two-over par with his lone birdie at the par-five sixth cancelled out by bogeys at the third, fifth (almost unreachable in two blows yesterday) and eighth.

While he bogeyed the 15th and 17th coming home, birdies at the 14th and 16th gave him a superb, two-over 73 and a five-shot win over plus-three handicapper O'Keeffe.

The big Douglas man went out in four-over-par 40 with bogeys at the first, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth and a solitary birdie at the sixth before he dropped three more shots — at the 10th, 16th and 18th — in a homeward 38.

Willam Byrne started superbly with six successive pars and while he bogeyed the seventh, eighth and ninth, he started for home with three pars before dropping his only shots on the back nine at the tough par-five 13th and the testing, par-three 17th.

Byrne's brother Joseph, last week's winner, marked his first competitive round off plus one with an excellent, three-over 74 in the conditions.

Out in two over with bogeys at the fifth and sixth, the 15-year-old double-bogeyed the 10th and bogeyed the 11th but birdied the downwind, index-one 12th hole and the par-five 13th before following a bogey at the 15th with a rare two at the 17th hole, where he needed a three-wood to find the green.

TaylorMade Winter Series, Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links (Par 71, SSS 74, CSS 77, reductions only)

Tuesday, 9 January

Nett

  1. William Byrne (3) Baltinglass 72
  2. Joseph Byrne (+1) Baltinglass 75

Gross

  1. Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 73
  2. Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) 78