Ronan Mullarney provided the fireworks on day one of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open after he fired a blistering course-record nine-under par 62 at Rosses Point.
The Galway amateur, who has two runner-up finishes to his name this term at the Lee Valley Scratch Cup and the R&A Scholars, was flawless in his work on the Harry Colt Links as he signed for nine birdies in a blemish-free round of golf that sees him four clear overnight.
Not since 1951 has a Connacht man won the Irish Amateur Open and it’s still early days to predict Mullarney following in Cecil Ewing’s footsteps, but the Maynooth scholar has the field right up against it after a mesmeric opening salvo.
“There’s no point lying, I was nervous coming in there,” Mullarney admitted after signing off on a magical round that beat the previous course best by two shots. “I had a nice stretch in the middle from 11 to 15, I birdied them all. I’ve played here a lot. I know the place really well.”
“I don’t like to hide from the fact if I’m going well,” added Mullarney, winner of the Irish Student Championship at Tralee in 2018. “If it comes to the last day and there are a few people following me, I know I’m doing well. There’s no point hiding from it. Hopefully, I have to deal with it at some stage.”
Mullarney, 23, made four birdies in his first nine but his outward tally of 32 seemed modest when set against his homeward run. Beginning at the 11th, he made five birdies on the trot.
By the time he reached the 13th green, the photographers had Mullarney in their sights. He duly holed another birdie putt, his longest of the round, from 40 feet.
“I was leading at the Irish Students in Bray a couple of years ago,” Mullarney recalled. “And I said to Pat [Cashman – photographer], ‘How am I going?’ He said: ‘When I start to come out, you know you’re doing something well.’ I knew I was going fairly okay then.”
“But even the pros say it’s hard to follow a good round. I will try my best to take each shot as it comes. Tomorrow is a different day and hopefully, the putts will drop.”
Three foreign raiders share second with England’s James Newton and Scotland’s Robbie Muir and Ewan Walker all tied on five-under par.
Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon and Connemara’s Luke O’Neill are in a seven-way tie for fifth a shot further back on four-under after opening days 67s.
“It was good shooting,” McLarnon reflected. “After nine, I probably felt like I left a couple out there because I was only one under. But then three under coming back in, I was pretty happy with how I played. Any time you go bogey free in a championship, you’re playing good golf.”
“Stroke play is probably my strongest point so hopefully, I’ll have a chance come Sunday evening,” he added. “I’m playing well. I’m playing golf the way that I want to play it — fairways, greens and hitting nice puts.”
Fintona’s Ryan McNelis, Castle’s Robert Moran and Portmarnock Links’ Gary Cullen find themselves tied together in 12th at minus-three.
Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell went into the week as the lowest ranked player in the world at number 21 and the 21-year old got off to a sound start with a one-under par 70. Purcell has course form around County Sligo already this year having finished runner-up to Caolan Rafferty at the West last month and despite being eight shots back, the Australian Amateur champion cannot be discounted with a long way still to go at Ireland’s blue-ribband amateur event.
Unfortunately the news wasn’t so good for 2017 champion, Peter O’Keeffe who may have played himself out of the reckoning after a day one five-over par 76.
The Flogas Irish Amateur Open was last played over the links at Rosses Point in 1950, when the legendary JB Carr prevailed. In total, there are 135 players teeing up at Co Sligo, including 57 Irish, and with 54-holes still to play and the weather set relatively fair for the rest of the week, we should be in for a cracker.
Full Scoring HERE