Murphy leads the way as five Irish qualify at Amateur Championship
John Murphy. Picture:  Pat Cashman

John Murphy. Picture: Pat Cashman

Kinsale’s John Murphy led the way as five of Ireland’s 14-strong contingent qualified for the matchplay stages of the Amateur Championship at  Royal Aberdeen.

Winner of the recent St Andrews Links Trophy, the University of Louisville star added a one-under 69 at Murcar Links to his four-over 74 at Royal Aberdeen to qualify in a tie for 14th on three-over 144.

The cut for the top 64 and ties fell at six-over 147 with Tramore’s Robin Dawson (144) tied 18th and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell, Hermitage’s Rowan Lester and Mallow’s James Sugrue all tied 40th on 146.

South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber (18), who lost out in a play-off to Nick Poppleton at the Brabazon Trophy earlier this month, led the qualifiers on eight-under 133.

He carded four birdies on his homeward nine for a four-under-par 67 at the Balgownie Links to move to eight-under-par, two strokes clear of Viktor Hovland from Norway who recorded a five-under-par 65 at Murcar Links. 
 
Hovland, the highest-ranked player in the field, at fifth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, eagled the par four 11th at Murcar and picked up another five birdies in an excellent display of putting but was held back by bogeys on the first and last.
 
Canadian Sam Meek was in contention to finish as leading qualifier when he stood at six-under coming down the last at Murcar but in trying to drive the green at the 369-yard par four the 19-year-old found a greenside bunker from where he took two to escape, with his second clearing the green and going out of bounds, resulting in a treble bogey seven. The 19-year-old finished third on three-under-par. 
 
In a truly international leaderboard, Nienaber’s countryman Matt Saulez finished fourth on two-under-par while the Australian pair of Kyle Michel and Blake Collyer were a shot behind. 

On the same mark was the leading English qualifier Harry Hall and his compatriot Ben Hutchinson was on level par. Euan McIntosh continued his fine form to finish as the leading Scot on two-over-par alongside the St Andrews Links Trophy champion John Murphy from Ireland.
 
Walker Cup player Matthew Jordan, ranked seventh in the world, finished on three-over-par to qualify for the match play stage.
 
The reward for the winner of The Amateur Championship is a place in The 147th Open at Carnoustie in July and the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach. 

Traditionally, the Amateur Champion is also invited to compete in the Masters Tournament. 

While Murphy and Dawson await the winners of this morning's first round matches, Lester takes on England's David Hague, Sugrue meets Australia's Kyle Michel with Purcell facing Spain's Pablo Rodriguez-Tabernero Torres in the last 64.

Amateur Championship, Murcar Links (Par 70)/Royal Aberdeen (Par 71)

Irish Qualifiers

T14 MURPHY, John Kinsale 74 69 143
T18 DAWSON, Robin Tramore 74 70 144
T40 PURCELL, Conor Portmarnock 74 72 146
T40 LESTER, Rowan Hermitage 71 75 146
T40 SUGRUE, James Mallow 73 73 146 

Non-qualifiers (Cut 147)

T96 O’KEEFFE, Peter Douglas 75 74 149
T118 YATES, Jonathan Naas 77 73 150
T138 GLEESON, Alex Castle 78 73 151
T161 MULLARNEY, Ronan Galway 78 74 152
T198 POWER, Mark Kilkenny 79 75 154
T198 RAFFERTY, Caolan Dundalk 78 76 154
T198 BRAZILL, Robert Naas 78 76 154
T237 MCLARNON, Tiarnan Massereene 81 75 156
T281 WHELAN, Jake Newlands 86 81 167