McDermott stakes claim to make up for lost time
County Sligo's Gary McDermott fired a best of the day 69 to trail halfway leader James Fox by four shots in the weather-delayed East of Ireland Amateur Open at County Louth.
But the 30-year-old bank official is hoping he isn't just pipped for the title over today's final 36 holes after being handed a two-shot penalty for arriving late for his first-round tee-time on Saturday.
Believing he was off at 9.33 am instead of 8.33, he realised his error just in time, screeched to a halt in the nearest parking space to the 10th tee, grabbed a three- wood and opened with a two-over- 74 that left him eight shots behind Fox starting the day.
"I could have been going home without playing," McDermott said with a grin. "I was happy to take the two shots. It's never happened to me before, but I will have a couple of looks at the time-sheet tonight."
If McDermott was lucky to escape disqualification, he was doubly blessed by the draw which saw him avoid driving rain and high winds that forced officials to delay the start by 70 minutes.
"We definitely got the best of the weather," said McDermott, who was second to Cian Curley at Baltray two years ago. "The tees were up and the wind died. I played well yesterday but I played great today."
Driving rain and a cold east-northeast wind gusting up to 30mph made life hell for the morning wave, but McDermott and Fox took advantage as conditions softened considerably in the afternoon.
The Sligo man eventually carded six birdies, one bogey and a double-bogey in his 69 to finish the day on one-under 143 as Portmarnock man Fox extended his overnight lead to four shots by adding a fighting 73 to his opening 66.
"I'd have taken that on the first tee," said Fox, who believes he's a better player than he was when he jointly led at halfway in 2009 before fading to 10th.
"I am three years older and three years more experienced. That said, I bet nobody remembers who was leading at halfway last year."
Fox was on the bag for the last of his brother Noel's three East of Ireland wins in 2002, but has no plans to join him in the professional ranks.
"I went to the Q-School three times," said the 29-year-old financial analyst.
"I figured if you're not in you can't win and if you are playing well you should have a go. But I am a married man and settled down now and just starting a career."
Fox and McDermott were the only men under par at the end of the day with 20-year-old Co Sligo man Michael Durcan the next best on level-par after pair of 72s.