Mark Staunton heads the Irish Challenge after day one of the HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour’s PREM Group Irish Masters at Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort, Wicklow.
The Delgany professional fired six birdies with just the one dropped shot at the second to find himself just two shots off the lead in a tie for third on five-under-par.
We are delighted to be sponsoring the new Irish Golfer trophy and a cheque for €500 to the leading Irish contender this week and it’s Staunton who’s stolen a march on the 24 competing home players as he sets the bar heading into day two.
In hot pursuit and just one shot further back are Stuart Grehan and John-Ross Galbraith after fine four-under-par 67s to start.
Tullamore’s Grehan started with a double-bogey but returned seven birdies in-all to grab a share of seventh spot alongside Whitehead’s Galbraith whose round included an eagle and four gains.
Headfort’s Joe Dillon finds himself in a big tie for 21st alongside North West’s Brian McElhinney after the pair opened with sound two-under-par 70s.
That was one better than Niall Turner who managed six birdies but will be looking to cut out the errors tomorrow to ensure he mounts a challenge on Friday.
A raft of Irish players negotiated the undulating layout in level par including last week’s winner, Tim Rice. Luke Donnelly, Brian Casey, Niall Kearney, Chris Selfridge, Kevin Phelan and tournament host and home favourite, Simon Thornton all signed for even par starts.
A little further down the leaderboard, West Cliff’s Brendan McCarroll has work to do tomorrow after a disappointing plus-two total while Tulfarris amateur, John Brady, managed four birdies around his home track but unfortunately mistakes cost him; he eventually signed for a 77.
The man to catch is Liam Murray who carded a blemish free opening round of 65 (-7) to lead by one heading into the second round in Wicklow.
Murray (GNK Golf & The LM Club) went out in 33 (-3) collecting an eagle and one birdie along the way, but really ramped up the scoring with a superb run of four consecutive birdies on his back nine.
The course record had already been set earlier in the day when in-form rookie Richard Mansell (Beau Desert Golf Club) shot an excellent 66 (-6) round, stringing five consecutive birdies together on the back nine to assume control early in the day.
However, Murray had other plans, and almost took a two-shot lead into the second round had his 12-foot birdie putt not lipped out on the 9th, what was his final hole of the day.
Reflecting on his round he said: “It’s been a long time coming, but I it’s great to have played as well as I did today. My driving was great today, I only missed one fairway with driver which is key round a course like this if you want to have plenty of birdie opportunities.
“Making four birdies in a row is always nice, especially on the back nine. It was slightly annoying to lip out for birdie on the 9th(last hole) but I can’t complain with that score.”
It’s the lowest round of Murray’s season on the EuroPro Tour, one that couldn’t have come at a better time with him sitting 77thin the Race To Desert Springs and just two events left in the season.
“I’m aware of where I am in the standings, and I spoke to my coach yesterday who said I really need to step it up, this is a great start in that direction but there is still a lot of golf left to play this week. I’m glad to be playing on such a good course, I heard a lot of good things from the Irish guys on tour; it’s up there with the best we’ve played on all season.”
The second round of the PREM Group Irish Masters continues tomorrow (Thursday, 30th August), after which a cut to the leading 50 professionals and ties will be made.