"Joke." "Ridiculous." "Unfair." "Carnage." The players didn't hold back in their withering criticism of the course set-up as just 42 players in the 123-strong field broke 80 and no one came close to par in the opening round of the 91st West of Ireland Amateur Open at Rosses Point.
Defending champion Harry Diamond, bidding to become the first player since his close friend Rory McIlroy to successfully defend the title, shot a magnificent three-over 74 to top the leaderboard alongside Co Sligo's Gary McDermott, Headfort's Rory McNamara, Delgany's Simon Bryan and Ballyclare's Ally Purdy.
They lead by a stroke from Kilkeel's William Hanna, newly crowned Leinster Youths champion Gary Collins from Rosslare and Irish Amateur Open champion Gavin Moynihan from The Island.
But, having endured tight pin-positions cut on slopes, an Arctic east wind that gusted up to 30mph and rounds that averaged close to six hours, no one was happy.
"It was unfair really," said South of Ireland champion Pat Murray after an 80. "Downwind the flags were all at the front of greens and you were putting from a long way away if you could manage to hold them.
"I have never seen scoring like that here, ever."
Joint-leader McNamara, who has reached the semi-finals in two of his last three visits to Co Sligo, was just as critical, despite his fine 74.
"The course was in great condition but it's no wonder we play six-hour rounds of golf when people can't keep the ball on the green or get within 30 yards of the flag," said the Headfort man, who was struggling with flu.
Galway's Joe Lyons, the 2007 champion, had a 10 at the par-five third and a nine at the 17th as he struggled to what would have been an 88 had he remembered to sign his card and not been disqualified.
Tramore's Alan Thomas, who won last year's Midlands Scratch Cup at Carlow, shot an 84 and added: "It was ridiculous. A joke would be an understatement. The greens are rock hard and the flags are on slopes or hanging off the corners."
Former Waterford hurling All Star Paul Flynn had a baptism of fire on his debut, shooting an 83. Asked if it was tougher than facing Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final, he beamed: "It was a slower death anyway!"
Connacht Branch secretary Enda Lonergan defended the set-up, explaining that changing pin positions would have been a logistical nightmare.
"The pins were set last Thursday," he said. "Play starts at seven and I was here at 5.45 this morning. You size things up but if you are to go out and try changing flags and have 125 pin sheets altered, it is just not feasible."
The top 64 after today's second round will make tomorrow's matchplay stage, with the cut likely to fall at around 20-over-par (162), the highest for more than decade.
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