The North of Ireland Championship got underway yesterday and is the latest event in the Bridgestone Order of Merit where an Ireland cap for the Home Internationals is on the line for the top two.
There are only three tournaments left in the series with Robin Dawson and Alex Gleeson, who currently occupy positions one and two, absent from the North because of a clash with the European Amateur Team Championship, the opportunity is there for chasing pack to make up some ground.
In total 300 players teed it up yesterday with the field reduced down for the match play stages after two rounds on the Dunluce and Valley courses at Royal Portrush and Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) is the highest ranked player in the field.
After the first round Niall Hearns (Mountrath) holds a slender lead in the qualifying after an opening 64 (-7), but he is being chased down by TJ Ford (Sligo), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu) and Robert Moran (Castle) who are all just one shot adrift. It’s a packed leaderboard and in all there are over 40 players within five shots of Hearns so there is plenty of action to come today.
BRIDGESTONE ORDER OF MERIT – TOP TEN
1 Robin Dawson (Tramore) 503
2 Alex Gleeson (Castle) 410
3 Robert Brazill (Naas) 345
4 Mark Power (Kilkenny) 278
5 James Sugrue (Mallow) 233
6 James Fox (Portmarnock) 205
7 Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 198
8 Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay) 180
9 Devin Morley (Oughterard) 170
10 Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) 158
POINTS DISTRIBUTION AT THE NORTH OF IRELAND
Winner – 250
Runner-up – 160
Semi-Finalists – 115
Quarter-Finalists – 78
Round of last 16 – 58
Qualifiers – 30