Maynooth University boast a typically strong presence on the leaderboard in both the men’s and women’s competitions as the latest R&A Student Series event teed off at Troia Golf in Portugal.
In the men’s competition, Ryan Griffin (video below), Harry Gillivan and Jordan Boles sit just two shots off the lead after the trio returned more than creditable even par 72s on the treacherous but brilliant Troia layout that demands accuracy, even in relatively benign conditions like today.
With American Ben Fuller out in front at two-under, the Paddy Harrington scholars lead the chasing back, with Griffin, who finished second in the Carton House event, firing six birdies, Gillivan five, and Boles an eagle and four birdies across an exciting first outing for the students following an extensive week of warm weather training at Vilamoura.
In the women’s event, Clodagh Walsh sits in third place after carding two birdies in a six-over round of 78. With Troia showing its teeth, Walsh ground out a decent number in her first competitive start of the year and sits five shots back of Scotland’s Lorna McClymont after an encouraging first day for Maynooth.
“Really happy with how the opening day went,” reflected Barry Fennelly, Golf Programme Manager at Maynooth.
“We had a great training camp with the team in Vilamoura. Johnny [Foster], Donal [Scott] and Noel [Fox] came over as always and it was very productive.
“Everyone was straight out of exams in January and understandably rusty but we played a lot of golf and tried to do a lot of on-course coaching with the focus very much on this week in Troia.”
With only one player breaking par in the men’s division, and one-over par leading the women’s event, Troia has provided its usual stern test and one Fennelly is convinced will stand his players in good stead for the rest of the season.
“This is the hardest course we play all year,” Fennelly says. “It’s a real natural golf course. Very tight off the tee, very small greens, and it’s just a real hidden gem, but it’s penal.
“So looking at the scores today, guys shooting level par is very, very good golf out here so overall, it’s a pretty decent return from the guys and girls.
“Clodagh had a really solid day in the women’s event and obviously Harry, Ryan and Jordan went very well with Eoin Murphy making it four in the top-10 in the men’s. We’re pleased with the start.”
Davit Kitt, who leads the Student Series Order of Merit after two events, has work to do after posting an eight-over par round of 80.
“David struggled a little bit today but you can’t rule him out,” Fennelly says. “He started slow in Carton and came back to finish third so he’s going to fight his way back.”
The R&A Student Series was first launched in 2019 to provide student golfers throughout UK and Europe with high performance playing opportunities. Each year, almost £500,000 is invested in student and university golf through the R&A Foundation Scholars programme.