Kinsale’s Cathal Butler opened with a very impressive 66 at the North of Ireland Amateur Open yesterday. Playing on the Valley links in Royal Portrush the Maynooth student shot a round of -5 to grab a tie for fifth place. Butler went out in -1 after three birdies and two bodies on the opening nine, but a powerful back nine saw him return in -4. Birdies on the 10th & 11th were followed by an eagle on the par five 16th. That see’s him just two shots off the lead held by Rowan Lester.
Mallow’s James Sugrue recovered from an early bogey on the 2nd, he went on to record four birdies and twelve pars to claim a place in the top 30 on -3. John Murphy shot a one under par round of 70 to lie just inside the cut (T51). Murphy was going well on -3 until he took a double on the 15th which pegged him back. Cork’s John Hickey made a return to Championship golf with a level par 71. He had a tough start and was +4 after three holes but recovered with five birdies and signed for level par. Kinsale’s Gary Ward is just outside the top 100 while Conor Dowling, Mark Healy and Kieran Lynch are further back in the mammoth field of 300 golfers.
All of the top twenty golfers played on the easier Valley links yesterday, with the CSS showing a three stroke difference between the two courses. Neil Simpson (Kirkistown Castle) had the best round on the Dunluce Links with a three under par 69. The players swap over today for the second round with the top 64 qualifying for the matchplay stage.