2019 North of Ireland champion Arron Edwards-Hill is back on familiar soil and looks like he will be a factor this Easter after he grabbed a share of the early lead at the Connolly’s Audi Centenary West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
The Irish championship season kicked off in County Sligo Golf Club with the traditional wind howling from Ben Bulben leading to a day of tough scoring and Edwards-Hill was one of four players to shoot red figures with a one-under 70 to share the first round advantage with local favourite Ruairi O’Connor, Rory Williamson of Holywood and Eoin Sullivan of Carton House.
The Englishman from Chelmsford’s round was a slow burner, failing to take advantage of the downwind start, with a bogey on the fourth but he put on a clinic of ball striking from there.
Birdies on 6, 12 and 16 lifted him into the solo lead before the 18th claimed yet another prisoner when he dropped a shot.
“Got off to a slow start, not taking advantage of the downwind holes but then played pretty nice on the back nine into the wind and to finish one-under was nice,” said Edwards-Hill.
“Off the tee was really good today then into the wind just hitting low fades chasing it down there and not leaving myself too far back and still playing pretty aggressive off the tee leaving myself easier shots into the greens so that was key on the back nine.
“The wind died down on 17 and then on the 18th tee it whipped up and we were nearly off the 18th tee box.”
Despite his strong English accent, these are familiar shores for Edwards-Hill who grew up in New Ross, Wexford until he was ten years old. The highest ranked player in the field boasts a formidable record on Irish soil beating Peter O’Keeffe 2&1 to win the North in Portstewart. He also placed third in the Irish Amateur Open that same year.
“I used to live here until I was ten years old, so it’s nice to be back, it’s great to have the home fans I suppose! They love their own tournament and it’s great to see so many people walking around. It adds a bit of pressure but it’s good.
“Third time playing the West so third time lucky I hope,” joked Edwards-Hill who was in the marquee group with O’Keeffe and Hugh Foley with all three vying for Walker Cup places in September.
“It was great to play with Peter and Hugh, I used to get coached by the same coach and Hugh so we are good mates. I’ve played Peter a few times in matches so there’s always a good competitive vibe out there.
“I was in Australia in January for four weeks so had good practice playing events out there then in India for two weeks so I’m still adjusting to some of the shots we have to play out here, hard to get the distance control. The courses had no wind out there whatsoever so a completely different game to here, it had elevation as well so the ball was flying 10-20 yards further.
“The courses were so tight so you had to be accurate off the tee, playing there definitely helped my driving today.
“That’s been my main goal for this year is to play Walker Cup. We have a lot of golf to play before then, a lot can happen so just take it one event at a time, getting some links practice here this week because we have a lot of it to play this year.”
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