THUNDER rolled and lightning flashed at Lahinch as records and hearts were broken in the 107th South of Ireland Golf Championship, sponsored by McNamara Construction, yesterday.
Lahinch's proud record of never having to suspend play in 20 years is no more after officials were forced to call a halt due to lightning shortly after 7pm.
Five matches were still on the course and the players were told to mark their golf balls and get back to the clubhouse.
The state of play when the siren sounded in these matches was: Eamonn Haugh (Castletroy) two up against Seapoint's Gerard Dunne after 13; Simon Ward (Co Louth) three up after 12 on Rory McNamara (Headfort); Austin Graham from the USA one up after 12 against Declan McInerney of Lahinch; Aaron O'Callaghan (Douglas) five up after 12 against John Daniel Guiney (Ballybunion) and Cork's Fergal Deasy was one up after 11 holes of his match against Tommy Neenan (Lahinch).
"This hasn't happened in my 20 years here," said secretary-manager Alan Reardon. "We will start play at 7am."
The tournament officials had no option once they saw the nasty turn in the weather, but by the time the cloudburst rolled over the pristine Lahinch links, there had been plenty of turmoil and drama at ground level.
Reigning champion Darren Crowe from Dunmurry was dumped out by Kieran Canty of Douglas by 3 and 1.
Crowe (27) beat Malone's Simon Doherty 5 and 4 in the morning, but had no answer to Canty, who scored an eagle on the par-5 12th hole to go three up.
That gave the 37-year-old Cork man room for manoeuvre and though he lost the 13th, he finished the match on the 17th, winning the hole with a birdie three.
It was a bad day for the Crowe family as Darren's younger brother, Stephen, also made his exit in the afternoon, losing 5 and 4 to Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney.
The other big shock was 43-year-old former Irish Champion Eddie Power defeating Irish Youths champion Seamus Power (no relation) by one hole in the morning, and continuing his good form with a 4 and 3 result against David Ryan (Grange).
Eddie retired from championship golf in 1999, but always plays in the South. His eight-year-old son Mark made it a family day of double success by winning the Young Masters Golf event in Forrest Little yesterday.
"At this level I don't have any ambitions except to take it round by round. I'm playing Senior Cup with Kilkenny and we're in the Leinster quarter-finals but I've a long way to go here before I can get too excited about my prospects," said Power.
Irish champion Paul O'Hanlon (Curragh) and European Team Championship team mate Shane Lowry (Esker Hills) played confidently to qualify for the last 16.
O'Hanlon had a 4 and 3 verdict against Derek Byrne.
Lowry, holder of the West and North titles, and seeking his first South championship, had an intriguing clash against former South of Ireland and Walker Cup winner Jody Fanagan of Milltown.
Fanagan (43) is more than twice 21-year-old Lowry's age, but he has been striking the ball sweetly for the last few days.
Lowry, however was never behind, and was two up playing the 17th. He finished itwith an outrageous birdie to win 3 and 1.
"I was in trouble and had a horrible lie near the green. I pitched it and it flew out, then hit the flagstick and dropped into the hole," said Lowry.
The escape of the day was by 37-year-old Pat Murray from Limerick. Five down against Westmanstown's David Reilly after nine holes in the morning, he recovered to win by one hole.
Then he had another one-hole win against James Fox of Portmarnock to go into today's draw.