English starlet Harley Smith tied the amateur course record at the Island as he soared to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.
The 18-year-old made light work of the difficult morning conditions to post a superb five-under 67 which will see him sleep on a one-shot lead over Scotland’s Ross Laird.
Smith who was fourth on his Irish Amateur Open debut at the European Club in 2021, was in the fourth group out from the tenth tee and he dazzled with six birdies and one bogey to hit the front.
“I come to every event to try and win but I play to try and beat the golf course every time I play,” said Smith.
“I don’t really worry about it as there are such good players playing in these events, you don’t know what they are going to shoot. I just play to beat the golf course and see what happens.”
The Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup panelist was excellent and picked up birdies on 15 and a rare one on 18 to turn in 34 before three birdies in six holes saw him click into gear.
“I was planning to shoot around par. I played the practice round yesterday and it was very tough. I went out there today and made sure that I stuck to a really good game plan of hitting it to the right side of the flag,” said Smith.
‘I nipped a couple of birdies early on the Par 5 and 18th which put me -2 at the turn and I played very solid coming in.
“The back nine is definitely harder than the front nine. Starting on the back nine and getting off to a good start definitely gave me a lot of momentum coming into the front nine and I played really well from there.”
Scotland’s Laird was the best of the afternoon scores with a four-under 68 which included four birdies in eight holes on his way home and he also played the course from back to front.
The leading Irishman after the opening 18 is Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty who set the tone for the day with a birdie, birdie start before he clung onto his score after a third birdie in six holes.
Mother Nature threw a little bit of everything at the former Walker Cup player with sunshine, wind and biblical rain following him on his way around the Island.
Rafferty closed with five successive pars during the worst of the opening day conditions and he lies in solo third place on three-under after a 68.
“It was good, a tough start, wind was up but I had the putting boots on today and held a lot of putts and got a couple of breaks early on, got off to a quick start with birdie, birdie then it was about holding on to that as long as you can. Happy with the days work.
“When the rain came in it was a bit miserable but you have to batten down the hatches and keep fighting for par, par around here is a good score so keep fighting for that.
“The drop shot on 1 was unfortunate, plugged a ball on top of the first green and had to take a drop but look it left a sour taste in my mouth but it was a good bogey.”
Rafferty’s only appearance this year was at the Lee Valley Scratch Cup where he was fourth so expectations were low coming to North Dublin.
“Had no expectations, not playing anything competitive really, nine holes at home. Played last weekend, was brutal so just shows you what golf is all about, you don’t know what you’re going to produce on the day!”
“I enjoyed the course last year so keep going with that and continue for the rest of the week.”
Meanwhile, Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan, Carton House man Keith Egan and Scotland’s Mitchell Cowie are tied on two-under after opening 70s while Naas golfer Rob Brazill, home favourite Conor Murtagh, East of Ireland winner Alex Maguire and Nenagh’s David Reddan are part of an eight-way tie for seventh on one-under-par.
Defending champion Colm Campbell is five-over after an opening 77.
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