McElroy, Cannon and Whitson hit swinging 60s in SA
 Ballymena's Dermot McElroy is just two shots off the lead following his opening 66 in the Free State Vodacom Amateur Stroke Play Open Championship. Archive picture by Pat Cashman  www.cashmanphotography.ie

Ballymena's Dermot McElroy is just two shots off the lead following his opening 66 in the Free State Vodacom Amateur Stroke Play Open Championship. Archive picture by Pat Cashman www.cashmanphotography.ie

Soft and somewhat bumpy greens caused some problems but Ballymena's Dermot McElroy was left to rue only a closing bogey as he opened with a superb 66 in the Free State Vodacom Amateur Stroke Play Open Championship in South Africa.

With ambitions to turn professional later this year, McElroy was seven under playing the 18th  but drove into the trees and ended up frustrated with a closing bogey that left him in second place, just two strokes behind England's Michael Dixon at Schoemanpark in Bloemfontein.

Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon holed a bunker shot and a wedge at his 10th hole from more than 110 yards as he carded an excellent opening 68 while Spanish Amateur Champion Reeve Whitson posted a fine 69.

The greens caused many players in the field huge problems though Jack Hume, Gary Hurley and Reeve Whitson all managed two under 70s.

McElroy birdied the first, eagled the fifth and bogeyed the seventh before picking up another shot to turn in three under par.

After another bogey at the 10th, he made three birdies in a  row from the 12th got him to five under before he drained a 90 footer for eagle at the 15th.

Cannon turned in two under par with the highlight of his round coming at the first, his 10th hole, where he holed a 110-yard approach.

A double bogey at the second put him back to two under before he finished with two birdies for his 68.

FREE STATE VODACOM AMATEUR STROKE PLAY OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP SCHOEMANPARK GOLF CLUB BLOEMFONTEIN

64 Michael Dixon (England)

66 Dermot McElroy (2nd place)

68 Robbie Cannon

69 Reeve Whitson

70 Jack Hume, Gary Hurley, Rory McNamara,

72 Chris Selfridge

77 Geoff Lenehan

*(On-line scoring is unavailable)