Power finishes strongly as Ireland leads at Sotogrande
Mark Power (Kilkenny). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Mark Power (Kilkenny). Picture by Pat Cashman

Kilkenny's Mark Power birdied three of his last five holes to open with a level par 72 as Ireland took the first round lead in the European Nations Cup at Real Club de Golf de Sotogrande.

The former Irish Boys champion was three-over after 10 holes but after following a birdie at the 11th with a bogey at the par-three 13th, he birdied the 14th, 15th and 17th to end the day alone in second place on level par.

Scotland's Kieran Cantlay carded a one-under 71 to lead the event with the Irish team one stroke ahead of Scotland and the Netherlands at the top of the team standings on six-over-par. 

“It was really tough out there today,” said Power, who has committed to Wake Forest University and will head there at the end of this year. “Very windy which made the course play even harder. 

“I was really steady on the front nine where pars were good scores and then towards the end of the round I started to putt great and made some nice birdies. All in all happy out with the round.”

Portmarnock's Conor Purcell made two birdies and two bogeys in his first five holes then double bogeyed the eighth and bogeyed the 12th and 13th to slip to four-over.

But he dug deep and picked up shots at the 14th and 16th to sign for a two-over 74 that was good enough for joint fifth on a day when the field averaged 78.44 in testing conditions.

Recently crowned West of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty was tied 21st after a 76 but Naas' Robert Brazill, who was called up as a last minute replacement for the injured James Sugrue, shot a discarded 80 that left him tied for 50th.