McGrane and Kelleher brave elements to lead qualifiers
It looked all day to be heading for a play-off, but in the end yesterday's qualifier for this weekend's West of Ireland Championship in at the Co Sligo GC proved a straight-forward process.
Nine golfers out of a total of 95 that took to the famous links course yesterday have booked their place in tomorrow's first round of matchplay, headed by Gary McGrane from Royal Dublin and Portmarnock's David Kelleher.
The pair topped the leaderboard with one-over-par 72s in testing conditions at Rosses Point.
Six players recorded rounds of 77 and sat anxiously awaiting the final two three-balls to come in, anticipating a play-off for the final spots.
But instead Lee Valley's Greg O'Mahony posted a 75 in the penultimate group, and Warrenpoint's Jamie Fletcher followed him with a five-over 76 to separate the top nine.
Daniel Brennan of Shannon was third best with a 73 in the blustery and wet conditions, while Westport's Harry Gillivan and County Cavan's Shane McDermott were a shot worse off.
None of the six home club members made the cut, leaving Enniscrone's Ryan O'Doherty as the only Sligo golfer to make it through.
Serryth Heavey (78), Eoin Gaughan (79) and Mark Rooney (79) came close, though youngster Cian Feeney was the unluckiest as part of the group sitting on 77.
Scoring was particularly difficult early on in the day, and Gaughan was only one of three golfers to break 80 from the first eight groups. Kelleher's 72 shook things up and included birdies on the par threes at nine and 13, though a double-bogey on the 17th set him back a little.
He was still well clear of the field and assured of his return on Friday long before Gillivan, McDermott and Brennan came home to narrow the gap.
McGrane, whose father Noel was a winner here in 1987, did eventually match the leader before Fletcher's card scrapped him over the line.
Meanwhile, Ireland's boy golfers regained the Cardigan Cup from their Welsh counterparts at Rosslare yesterday 11.5-8.5 in a gripping contest closer than the scoreline suggests.
The key to the Irish success lay in the only foursomes session which the hosts won by three matches to nil with one halved.
Kinsale's Gary Ward was the outstanding player - winning all his three matches and finishing up by playing the anchor role in the afternoon's singles in which he recorded a 3&2 victory against Lewys Sanges.
This was Ireland's first success in this annual fixture for three years.