Lester on top at North of Ireland Championships

It was a day for low scoring on the Valley Links at Royal Portrush yesterday, but not so on the Dunluce as play got underway on day one of the North of Ireland Championship.

Hermitage international Rowan Lester (playing the Valley on day one) carded a best of the day 64, including five birdies and an eagle  in the opening round of stroke play qualifying to lead by one from a number of players who returned 65s and at the halfway stage there are 68 players under par with the top 64 progressing to the match play stages.

There is a three-man group chasing Lester for the silver medal – Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), Ronan Mullarney (Galway) and Robert Brazill (Naas). A further eight players are in the group at five under. Defending champion Sean Flanagan is two under after an opening round of 70.

On the Dunluce links, which is seeing Championship action for the first time since its redevelopment, Neill Simpson (Kirkistown Castle) was the only player to break 70. Simpson made four birdies and with just one bogey on the card, he joined a 15-man group at minus three.

The second round is underway now with players playing the opposite course to yesterday.