McClean, Coughlan, Hearn lead the Irish charge at 127th Amateur Championship

Ronan MacNamara
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McClean, Coughlan, Hearn lead the Irish charge at 127th Amateur Championship

Paul Coughlan (Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Matthew McClean, Paul Coughlan and Jack Hearn are all just three shots off the pace after the opening day of the 127th Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes and St Annes Old Links.

The trio shot four-under 68s around the easier St Annes Old Links and they are in a share of fourth place trailing Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg who is seven-under after the first 18 holes of strokeplay qualifying.

Malone’s McClean had briefly set the clubhouse lead after a brace of closing birdies saw him climb to the summit on four-under and he feels he got the maximum out of his game.

“Yeah, I had seven birdies, three bogeys,” he said. “So played a lot of good golf and the two bogeys were okay and the third one was a bit silly. Generally didn’t leave too many shots out there.

“It’s playing quite hard, good wind and the rough is quite thick. So you had to be pretty accurate and play a lot of good golf to have seven birdies generally.

“Hit a nice drive down 18 and played a bit of an interesting second shot into an awkward position but thankfully the pitch sort of come out in the spot I was trying to land and it landed up the green. 10-footer on the last always makes lunch feel a wee bit more comfortable and feel a wee bit better about yourself,” he added.

The top-64 after 36 holes will advance to the matchplay stages and as it stands Ireland have eleven players inside that mark with six inside the top-18.

Connemara’s Luke O’Neill is a shot further back of McClean and co after a three-under 69 around St Annes Old Links while Hugh Foley is on two-under after a 70.

The Royal Dublin golfer is alongside Castle’s Robert Moran who will feel he is in a great position to qualify after an opening 68 on the more difficult Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Out of the 34 leading players Moran is one of just four players to have played their first round in Royal Lytham, he also registered a fourth-place finish at last month’s Lytham Trophy.

The Irish international was four-under after thirteen after two birdies and an eagle before a triple-bogey seven on 15 stalled him. He responded well with a closing birdie to give him momentum heading into the second round.

Ballybofey &Stranorlar’s Ryan Griffin is on level-par after a 72 around the Old Links while Caolan Rafferty is a shot further back after a 73.

Kilkenny’s Mark Power is one-over after a 71 around Royal Lytham as is John Cleary while Carton House golfer Keith Egan shot 73 around St Annes.

East of Ireland champion Alex Maguire has work to do to make the top-64 but a two-over 72 around Royal Lytham is not a bad effort and he will be hoping he can take advantage of the more favourable St Annes on Tuesday.

Jack McDonnell is also plus two after his opening round around St Annes.

Peter O’Keeffe, Liam Nolan (both+3), Jake Whelan, Marc Boucher, Colm Campbell (all +4), TJ Ford (+5), Paul Conroy (+6), Max Kennedy, Charlie Denvir (both +7) and Alan Fahy (+8) all have a big task on their hands to make the cut.

Scores

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