Sligo’s McLoughlin tops the West Qualifier as early starters get the best of the weather

Mark McGowan

County Sligo

It was a day for the early starters at the West of Ireland Championship qualifier at Co. Sligo Golf Club on Wednesday as the wind picked up considerably in the afternoon and the scoring average went up with it.

Local man Seán McLoughlin was among the early wave, shooting an incredible six-under 65 to take an early clubhouse lead that was never likely to be seriously challenged. He’d finish the day three clear of Holywood’s Scott Montgomery in second place.

Rain was the only worry for the first men off, and that cleared up by the time they’d traversed the first third of the course and the trademark winds that sweep in off the Atlantic were only notable by their absence.


Despite a bogey at the first, he responded in style at the par-5s, first birdieing the third and then eagling the fifth to get to -2 for the day. Another birdie followed at seven and back-to-back pars saw him make the turn for home at -3.

Birdies at 10 and 12 got him to -5 and he’d reel off five straight pars before a mammoth drive at the 18th left just a short pitch to six feet and he’d duly dispatch birdie number seven to post -6 and he knew that he’d comfortably made it through to Friday’s first round proper.

Sean McLoughlin (Image:

“I’m very happy with that,” a beaming McLoughlin said afterwards, “a good day’s work but it was a perfect day for it though. The first few holes were tough with the weather, but the course is in great condition and in benign weather like that, you have to take advantage.

Amazingly, this was McLoughlin’s first round with a scorecard in hand in 2023. The 18-year-old is in his leaving cert year at Sligo’s Summerhill College and was sitting his Irish Oral exams the day prior.

“A lot of good rounds start with a bogey, so that’s what I said to myself and I got a couple of shots back and from then on, I just tried to play steady golf – hit fairways and greens and thankfully I was able to sink a few putts.”

Second-placed qualifier Montgomery also had an early bogey and it was his last of the day, as he’d birdie the third, fifth, 11th and 16th holes to comfortably make his way through to the weekend’s action.

“It was just pretty solid from start to finish,” Montgomery said, “I didn’t really miss any shots out there and I had a good caddie on the bag – he’s qualified already – and he was a great help to me out there today. Just hit greens and two-putt was the mantra and try to get the odd one to drop.

“It was definitely calm out there, you felt it a little on the 12th, but looking at the weather out there now then the guys coming in are probably going to struggle.”

One of the few in the field to birdie the par-3 16th, Montgomery admitted that he had an unlikely preview. “It was funny because the guy in front of me hit exactly the same shot and had exactly the same putt. I was looking at him down the Bushnell and I saw him roll it in so that gave me a little boost.”

The wind did pick up considerably in the afternoon, and the provisional 15-man cut-off mark scoreline got considerably higher as the day wore on.

For much of the afternoon, it appeared as though +2 would be good for a playoff, with almost all of the plus-ones and above coming from the early wave.

Royal Belfast’s Max Carson’s one-under 70 was the best of the late starters, and he played the back nine in an extremely-impressive -2 to make his way safely through and break the hearts of the cohort at two-over who spent much of the afternoon watching the leaderboard and anticipating a potential nine or ten for one playoff.

Dundalk’s Ciaran Johnston, David Howard of Fota Island, Colm Hughes of Galway, Ronan O’Callaghan from Mannan Castle, Cork’s Charlie Flavin, Mullingar’s Mikey Mina Ronayne, Oscar Murphy from Royal Portrush, Gweedore man Cathal Gallagher, Dave Lowry of Corrstown, Stackstown’s Marc Judge, Jamie Foley of Letterkenny and Castle’s Tommy Smyth rounded out the 15 qualifiers.

They will now have an additional practice day along with those already qualified before the West of Ireland Championship proper gets underway on Friday morning.


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