Young guns make hay as sun shines on Lahinch
Mark Power (Kilkenny) during June's East of Ireland. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Mark Power (Kilkenny) during June's East of Ireland. Picture by Pat Cashman

A zephyr breeze and blazing sunshine allowed the cream of Irish golf to blast birdies with gay abandon in the first qualifying round of the Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored South of Ireland Championship.

But while Kilkenny's Mark Power and 2017 East of Ireland winner Reece Black from Hilton Templepatrick fired seven-under-par 65s, they were happy to put some birdies in the bank with rain and 35mph southerly gusts forecast for today.

They lead by a stroke from defending champion James Sugrue from Mallow, Naas' Jonathan Yates, Dundalk international Caolan Rafferty in the race to make the top 64 who will qualify for tomorrow's matchplay stages.

And while Sugrue didn't put a foot wrong as he shot as stress-free a 66 as he is likely to shoot, Rafferty and Yates were reminded that you can never let your guard down on the storied Co Clare links that will host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open next year.

Yates was eight-under for his round and cruising with three holes to play but bogeyed the 16th and 17th for his 66 while Rafferty made an eagle and six birdies in his first 14 holes and looked likely to set the clubhouse target before he finished bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey for his 66.

"Jonny and I just fed off each other all day," Power said of a round where the highlight wasn't one of his seven birdies but the 50-yard flop shot he hit to a foot to save par at the third after getting a flyer through the green.

"We played the first five holes, and there was a one-club wind, and I was just hoping it wouldn't drop because you don't feel right playing Lahinch in flat calm. 

"You always want some wind to work with. But on the back nine, it wasn't there and you could just go at flags even though a few greens are quite firm and you had to hit some high cuts to get the ball to stop.

"I made a few sick up and downs on the front nine too, so it was nice to have my first bogey-free round for a while and to do it as a member of Lahinch is special. 

"There are days here where it's windy and lashing rain, and 80 is a good score, and then there are days like today when you're chasing 70 or better."

Black is making his debut in the "South" and after struggling with his game since winning the "East" last year, the 19-year old was more than pleased to make nine birdies.

He used his two iron well and often, offsetting bogeys at the fifth and 16th with birdies at the second, fourth, eighth, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th.

Four of them required just two putts but he also hit his share of quality iron shots with his 190-yard six-iron to two inches at the 10th the pick of the bunch.

“It's been annoying the past year but I am starting to play a bit better and I knew with the wind dropping that a score was on," Black said on a day when 35 players broke par. 

"It's my first year here and it's just class with a fantastic practice area and the town right here beside us."

Sugrue feels right at home at the scene of his maiden championship win and he was delighted to go bogey-free with his only moment of stress coming at the 15th, where he missed his only green in regulation but still made a 10 footer for par.

"Confidence is everything in golf," the 22-year old said. "I wasn't confident with the putter for a year or 18 months, standing over 20 footer just trying to lag them up. Now I am thinking I can hole them." 

His 66 was matched later by Yates and  international Rafferty, who was less than thrilled to drop two shots in his last four holes, victim of fairway bunkers at the 15th and 18th and a tee shot that went long at the short 16th

"It's in such good condition that you can't but shoot a good score," Rafferty said. “If you keep the ball in play off the tee, it's very fair and the greens are absolutely fantastic."

117th South of Ireland Amateur Open

Sponsored by Pierse Motors Volkswagen

Round one

Detailed scores

65 M Power (Kilkenny), R Black (Hilton Templepatrick); 

66 J Sugrue (Mallow), J Yates (Naas), C Rafferty (Dundalk); 

67 M McCormack (Moss Creek,USA); 

68 J McDonnell (Forrest Little), C Butler (Kinsale), H Foley (Royal Dublin), G O’Flaherty (Cork); 

69 R Dutton (Tandragee), R Lester (Hermitage), N Carroll (Galway Bay), H Duggan (Kilkenny), R Moran (Castle), R Cannon (Balbriggan); 

70 J Hickey (Cork), A McCormack (Castletroy), P Coughlan (Castleknock), G Royston (Cotswold Downs LC, South Africa), R Mullarney (Galway), E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown), M McClean (Malone), S Watts (Cairndhu); 

71 J Ryan (Castletroy), A Gleeson (Castle), R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire), A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), R McKeever (Castle), R Williamson (Holywood), R Latimer (Knock), E Griffin (Waterford), P Kerr (Royal Portrush), D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), P McKeever (Castle); 

72 M O’Kelly (Limerick), K Egan (Carton House), J Kehoe (Limerick), D Brophy (Castleknock), T McLarnon (Massereene), A Ryan (Thurles), J Fox (Portmarnock), M Norton (Belvoir Park), J Blake (The Island), S Desmond (Monkstown), G Ward (Kinsale), P O’Keeffe (Douglas), P Connolly (Killeen Castle); 

73 M Kalfjall (Wäsby, Sweden), J Rackard (Enniscorthy), M McKinstry (Cairndhu), T Neenan (Lahinch), T Clarke (Royal Portrush), R O'Connor (Co. Sligo), P Murphy (Rosslare), M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire), M Reddan (Limerick), S Greenberg (Tandragee), M Boucher (Carton House), D Coghlan (Portmarnock); 

74 M Horan (Birr), F O’Sullivan (Tralee), N Hearns (Mountrath), J Madden (Royal Portrush), K Shreves (Congressional Country Club, USA), D Morley (Oughterard), D McCusker (Moyola Park), R Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire), J Hearn (Tramore), E Rumley (Kinsale), A Doran (Co. Louth), J Whelan (Newlands); 

75 D McMahon (Castletroy), J Walsh (Castle), C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), G Dunne (Co. Louth), R Clarke (Wexford), R Brazill (Naas), T O’Connor (Athlone), K McCarthy (Kinsale), K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), B Anderson (Royal Dublin), J Greene (Portmarnock), C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), S Poucher (Limerick), H O’Hare (Fortwilliam), M Looby (Greystones), S Walsh (Portmarnock), P O’Hara (Kilkenny), O O’Brien (Limerick), R O’Doherty (Enniscrone), S Flanagan (Co. Sligo), L Power (Galway), O Devereux (Carton House); 

76 J Maginn (Mourne), P Murray (Clontarf), D Callister (Mount Murray, Isle of Man), P O’Connor (Macroom), G O'Mahony (Fota Island), H Gillivan (Westport), N McCann (Lurgan), N Schaffrath (GLC Berlin-Wannsee, Germany), G Collins (Rosslare), D Brady (Co. Sligo), P Carey (Nenagh), J Lyons (Galway); 

77 J Bolger (Jnr) (Courtown), M O’Neill (Coollattin), S Barker (Mourne), R Knightly (Royal Dublin), P Sheehan (Ballybunion), P Brennan (Belvoir Park), J O’Leary (Dromoland), R Pierse (Grange), B Shally (Dromoland), J Doherty (Carton House), B Gilligan (Woodstock), M Burke (Galway); 

78 T Ford (Co. Sligo), E Stack (Ballybunion), P Flynn (Tramore), A McDaid (Palmerstown House Estate), E Long (Monkstown), D Crawford (Bundoran), G McGrane (The Royal Dublin), M Buggy (Castlecomer), I O’Rourke (Royal Dublin); 

79 R Kenny (Arklow), S Carter (Royal Dublin), J Temple (Portmarnock), T Cleary (Woodstock), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown); 

80 C Feeney (Co. Sligo), S Hogan (Nenagh), J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), G Nugent (Kilkenny); 

81 R McCormack (Palmerstown House Estate), E Farrell (Ardee), I Bohane (Lee Valley), M McHugh (Abu Dhabi National, UAE), C Cunningham (Carton House)

82 G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), M McKenna (Dun Laoghaire); 

83 D Murphy (Portarlington); 

84 M Kennelly (Galway Bay), G Carr (Mullingar); 

85 C Twomey (Fermoy), B Loftus (Lahinch), C Vaughan (Limerick); 

88 K Daniels (Loughrea).