Conor Stone leads US Adaptive Open after considering withdrawing

Ronan MacNamara

Conor Stone (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

Conor Stone was as shocked as anyone to find his name at the top of the leaderboard after the opening round of the US Adaptive Open having had his mind set on withdrawing after major struggles with his back in recent weeks.

Stone had already withdrawn after the opening round of the Irish Open for Golfers with a Disability after the opening round in Roganstown and the only reason he teed it up at Pinehurst no.6 on Monday was because he had his flights and accommodation booked. He has gotten his money’s worth so far!

“Yeah, to be honest, complete shock to be leading. Was not expecting it. The last two weeks I couldn’t swing a golf club. It was about to withdraw from the tournament. Only for my flights booked and accommodation booked, I wasn’t coming,” said Stone who has scoliosis.


“I need to give a shout-out to my physiotherapist Jerry McDonough for fixing my back. So very happy, and a good preparation, as well, with my caddie Glen Davis, who I met here last year.

“Yeah, to be honest, it was easy. I don’t know where it came from. But happy to be able to hit a golf ball good again. I’ve always been able to shoot these scores, but I just haven’t done it in a long time, so it’s nice to do it on a big stage like this.”

Stone’s opening round of five-under 67 has given him a one-shot lead over Korea’s Simon Lee and his effort looks even more impressive considering how worried he was about his body, concerns he had aired with friends at both Carton House and Co. Meath Golf Club for a few weeks.

“I’m in the arm impairment category, but it’s actually my spine. I have 60 pieces of metal in my spine. I have good days and have bad days, and to be honest I thought my time was up. I thought my back was just giving in because I’ve lost 15 miles an hour club head speed in the last six, seven months. I’ve lost 20, 30 yards off my irons. It’s been scary. I’ve been worried about what’s happened to my body.

“But I’m hitting it shorter now, and look, it’s fine. The ball was going straight. I was still hitting greens. I might be hitting two clubs more than what I did last year, but yeah, it’s fine. But I have to stretching trying not to do too much. I have to keep loose, keep moving, and hope that I don’t do too much.”

The Carton House man put his pain to one side and made a dream start with an opening eagle three. Dropped shots came on the third and seventh with a birdie sandwiched in on the sixth but the 28-year-old played some scintillating golf afterwards rolling in birdies on 9, 10, 14 and 15 to soar into the lead.

“Yeah, I was kind of nervous after that because the juices were flowing after I holed that putt for eagle on the first, so I was slightly nervous going forward. But then three or four holes in, I kind of settled it, and I felt fine after that.

“But yeah, I was kind of nervous after holing the eagle putt. If I had made a birdie putt or a two-footer for birdie, I probably would have felt a lot better. But yeah, obviously I’m happy with the eagle, so it kicked off the round.”

Known as a long hitter back in Ireland, short and steady might win the race for the Dubliner who grew up in Kildalkey Co. Meath but it won’t be without a few prayers for good health!

“Even after I played the practice round here the first day, the Saturday, I went off and I come back to do a TrackMan session, and I was hitting balls, and afterwards I felt like, oh, my back is gone. I was saying my prayers. I’m not too holy of a person, but I was saying my prayers Saturday night that I could still swing a club Sunday morning, said Stone who opened his account last year with an 81.

“Lucky enough, I was. Look, I’m not feeling 100 percent, but I can still swing, and the heat helps a bit because back home in Ireland it’s 16 degrees and your body just feels cold and feels stiff the whole time. It’s nice coming out here to a bit of heat.

“I played terrible last year. I really did not play well. I think I shot a score in the double digits in the first round or in the 80s anyway. Then had two okay rounds then coming in.

“But much better preparation this year. I know the course better. I was able to expect the humidity. I was not used to the heat and the humidity that we had here. I was much more confident coming over this time. Well, in my mind, the way my golf was, I wasn’t confident, but I felt more comfortable on the course. Yeah, it worked out well.”

While he may be sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard it was straight back down to Earth for Stone who is working remotely for McGuirks Golf this week.

“I’ve played a couple of G4D events. Haven’t played too well. I’ve kind of dropped down the World Rankings a bit, which has been a bit disappointing because I always — my ambitions were to move up the rankings and get into the top 10, and I’m clearly good enough, but I work hard. I work 40, 50 hours a week, and a lot of these guys who are ahead of me in the world rankings, this is their job.

“This is not my job. My job is sitting in front of a computer looking at spreadsheets on Excel. But I’ve got a very good boss, Michael McGuirk. He owns the Irish version of the PGA Superstore, so he’s very helpful. He let me bring the laptop away, and I can work from over here, and even now I have to go back and work for a few hours. The day job comes first.

“Look, I’m very lucky to have people around me that are helping me do things like this. Yeah, it’s worked out well.”

Kipp Popert is just three shots back on two-under after a 70 while Ireland’s other representative Aidan Grenham is on +12.

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.