Coughlan recovers from bug to show he has stomach for Close battle
Castleknock's Paul Coughlan went from doubtful starter to first round leader when he overcame suspected food-poisoning and opened with an impressive 66 in the AIG Irish Amateur Close at Galway.
The Dubliner (25) was one-over par after just two holes but he made five birdies with his four-under par round to take a one-stroke lead over Co Sligo's David Brady and Co Cavan's Shane McDermott on a day when some of the big guns struggled.
"It's my lowest round of the year," said Coughlan, who credited a putting lesson with Castleknock professional Ryan Donagher for his impressive form on Galway's pristine greens.
"He moved the ball back in my stance and I only had 27 putts today. The greens are slower than they look but they are pure. Finding the fairway is key here."
Starting at the 10th, Coughlan went out in level-par but came home in 31 thanks to birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and eighth to get off to the perfect start in his bid to make the top 64 qualifiers.
Gusting "Yesterday, I definitely wasn't playing," he said of his stomach bug. "Even this morning I was 50-50. I haven't been able to eat since Friday. I think it's food poisoning."
A southerly wind, gusting up to 20 mph at times, allowed just 10 players in the 132-strong field to break par with the average score a shade under 74 at a tight and testing venue.
Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell made a quadruple bogey eight at his seventh hole (the 16th) and had to finish eagle-birdie-birdie just to card a level-par 70.
Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty matched West of Ireland champion Barry Anderson with a one-over 71 as East of Ireland winner Reece Black shot 72, Tramore's Robin Dawson a 73 and Irish Boys champion Mark Power a 10-over 80.
"You're on a knife-edge on every hole," Anderson said. "Once you get your tee-shot away, it's very scoreable. But it's tight off the tee."
Defending champion Alex Gleeson from Castle found that to his cost as he had three double-bogey sixes in a 75 that leaves him tied for 81st with South of Ireland champion James Sugrue and outside the top 64 who will qualify tonight.
"It was a very frustrating round," said Gleeson, who didn't get a practice round after heavy rain closed the course on Monday. "I was struggling off the tee and on the greens, so it wasn't ideal.
"You can see most of the trouble here. It's more just getting familiar with where to miss it around the greens.
"I'll just look to play solidly tomorrow and give myself the best chance of qualifying."