McGee going it alone over the weekend at Nelson Mandela Bay

Ronan MacNamara

Ruaidhri McGee (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Ruaidhri McGee will fly the Irish flag over the weekend in Port Elizabeth as he managed to make the cut, but only just, as Paul Dunne and Conor Purcell bowed out of the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship.

McGee opened his week with a six-under 66 to be the leading Irishman and looked to be set to contend over the weekend after moving to -7 after 9 holes of his second round only for a torrid back nine to send him hurtling towards the cut line which he just about staved off.

The Derry native carded three birdies and two bogeys in a front nine of 36 before falling back to four-under after a double-bogey on his 14th hole and a bogey on 17. A closing par meant he made the weekend on the number and he trails talented young Frenchman Tom Vaillant by ten.

Despite a late flurry, Greystones Dunne finished two shots shy of the cut mark on two-under after a level-par 72.

The 2017 British Masters winner birdied 13 and eagled 16 in an impressive finish, but it was too little too late on his first start of the season.

Portmarnock’s Purcell had admittedly been struggling from tee to green while bailing himself out with the putter. But there was no hiding place today as he missed the cut on level-par for the second successive week after a back nine of 41 gave him a 77.

At the top, 21-year-old Frenchman Vaillant shot to the top with a 64 on just his second Challenge Tour start of the season.

Having recently turned pro, Vaillant is a two-time Alps Tour winner as an amateur and was third on last year’s Alps Order of Merit.

The youngster was bogey-free, carding five birdies and an eagle.

“It was a good day today,” he said. “I followed my process, and the wind was pretty calm today which meant there were scoring opportunities out there. I just tried to enjoy my golf and go as low as possible, which is what happened so I’m very happy right now.

“It’s nice to have no bogeys on the card, especially on links courses. I always try to pick small targets and not play too aggressively because that’s where you can get into trouble out here. My strategy is to hit the middle of the green and then take my chances with the putter.”

Vaillant represented France in the European Amateur Team Championship at Royal St George’s Golf Club last year, and he believes his game is well-suited to tackle the tough conditions that links golf creates.

“I think my game suits links golf courses and I saw that pay off today,” he said. “Last year I played the European Amateur Team Golf Championships with the French team and I felt very comfortable on links courses.

“Tomorrow I will take the same sensible approach and focus on every shot and hopefully I can go low again.”

Vaillant leads JJ Senekal and Adam Blomme by three.

Scoring HERE

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