Purcell shares the lead and Caldwell three back in Headfort

Ronan MacNamara

Conor Purcell (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images)

Conor Purcell and Brandon Robinson Thompson share a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend of the Irish Challenge at Headfort Golf Club.

Home favourite Purcell posted a four under par round of 67 to take the clubhouse lead on nine under par, before Englishman Robinson Thompson carded a sensational seven under par round of 64 to join him at the top of the leaderboard.

The pair lead by two ahead of English duo Jamie Rutherford and Sam Bairstow, Welshman Rhys Enoch, American Jordan Gumberg and Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan who share third place on seven under par.


Purcell was pleased to maintain his strong start on home soil and is taking full advantage of local knowledge this week as his father used to be the Head Professional at Headfort from 1983 to 1991.

“I’m very happy today,” he said. “It’s always difficult to follow up a low score with another one so I’m pleased to finish the way I did today and remain at the top of the leaderboard. I had a quick start and felt like I could hole everything.

“I’ve hit a lot of bad shots as well as good ones out there. It’s important to remain patient and not compound those errors because it could lead to a big score on some holes.”

The 26-year-old is currently leading the race for the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest finishing homegrown player at the end of the week, and he is looking to fulfil a lifelong dream with the recipient of that award competing in this year’s Horizon Irish Open on the DP World Tour.

“I’ve never played an Irish Open and it’s always been a dream of mine growing up to play that event,” he said. “The K Club is pretty close to home and would be a very special week for me. There’s so much golf to play and anything can happen.

“I have my girlfriend and some family with me this week which is nice. We’re going to the cinema this evening and it’s nice to have some home comforts.”

Englishman Richard McEvoy carded the low round of the day, an eight under 63, to move into eighth place alongside Scotland’s Ryan Lumsden, Denmark’s Nicolai Kristensen, Frenchman Frederic Lacroix and Northern Irishman Jonathan Caldwell on six under.

Caldwell birdied four of his last six holes to move from the cut line into the mix.

“Yeah I played lovely yesterday, drove the ball in plenty of fairways but just took my chances today,” said the Clandeboye man.

“Was a bit frustrated that I hadn’t taken some chances on the front nine but then I holed out for eagle on the ninth which was nice. Then bogeyed the tenth! But I had plenty of chances on the back nine and it was nice to make a few coming in.

“Yeah it was nice to make four birdies, would have liked to hole that one on the last, had a decent chance for another birdie but no, in a good position going into the weekend and I’ve been trending in the right direction for a while.

“Yeah, it’s nice to be in contention. Conor is obviously playing very well but as I said earlier, the Irish love their golf so it would be great to get a good crowd out here over the weekend.”

Kilkenny amateur Mark Power carded a three under 68 to ease into the weekend on two-under.

Power birdied three of his first five holes and held it together nicely in the blustery conditions.

“It was great, I didn’t play particularly well yesterday scrapped it around and short game bailed me out a little bit so to shoot one-over was pretty satisfying almost because I didn’t have my best stuff I knew if I tidied things up I could easily go under par and that’s what happened, happy with that.

“I got off to a lovely start and rode off the momentum of yesterday, just tried to keep it going, hit a couple of loose shots around the middle and could have made a couple of shots. I battled well it got a bit close to the cut line and stuff but I tried to block it out and made a good birdie at 16 and made a good couple of pars coming in.”

Conor O’Rourke and Jonathan Yates made the cut on the number at -1.

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