Tullamore's Grehan leads way in wind at Seapoint
Local knowledge paid off for Tullamore's Stuart Grehan as he avoided the carnage and won the silver medal awarded to the leading qualifier in the AIG-sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship at a windblown Seapoint.
A stiff southerly crosswind that gusted over 30mph at times sent scores soaring at the testing Termonfeckin links with the field averaging 79.8 as the thick rough took its toll on the wild hitters.
Not one player in the 140-man field broke par in the conditions, but 21-year-old Grehan, winner of the Irish Youths title just two years ago, used his driver sparingly and added a 74 to his opening 71 to edge out Knock's Colin Fairweather (70-75) on one-over 145 and lead the 64 qualifiers into today's first match-play round.
Tullamore might be almost 100 miles from Seapoint, but Grehan had a secret weapon in that his girlfriend is a member of the club and he spent the run-up to championship practising at the cerebral, par-72 track designed by Des Smyth and Declan Branigan more than 21 years ago.
"I played quite smart," said Grehan (above), who came home recently after just one year at Eastern Michigan University due to homesickness, but plans to attend NUI Maynooth from September.
"I hit driver only three times in each round, because the key here is to hit fairways. No matter how far back you are, you have to hit fairways. That was my game plan and it worked well.
"Local knowledge? Yes a bit. I've been up here the last two weeks. I didn't play well in the East at Baltray last week, but I've done a lot of practice here for the last few days and it looks like it's paying off."
The test proved to be a stern one for East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint, who took seven at the downwind, par-five 18th and followed his opening 68 with a 78 to miss out on the medal by a stroke.
Needing a par five to top the qualifiers, the 27-year-old was stymied by a tree off his drive, put his second in a fairway bunker, chipped out sideways and then failed to get up and down.
He wasn't the only man to suffer. Castle's Alex Gleeson covered Seapoint's back nine in level-par, but came home in 45 for an 81, taking 11 at the par-four fourth and seven at the sixth to miss the cut by just two strokes.