Wednesday 13 December 2017

Dunbar in hot pursuit of lead

Brian Keogh in Portrush

Home hero Alan Dunbar shook off flu and fatigue to keep leader Chris Selfridge in his sights in the Irish Amateur Close at a sun-baked Royal Portrush.

Bidding to follow in the footsteps of 2000 champion Graeme McDowell by winning the title on his home track, Rathmore's Walker Cup ace fired an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys in an opening 68 to trail Moyola Park star Selfridge (20) by just two shots on four-under-par.

"I had an early night and made sure I was well rested," said Dunbar, who is tied for second with Newlands' Andrew Hogan and Ardee's Eugene Smith on a day when rounds averaged a torturous five and a half hours.

"I didn't know if I could play 18 but I felt tired towards the end. But it's just one round. There's a long way to go and with the heat tomorrow and 36 holes on Sunday, it could be tough."

Former Boys international Selfridge has had a stellar freshman year for the University of Toledo and said that his new-found maturity and even newer putter were crucial factors as he fired an eagle and four birdies in an immaculate round of 66.

On a day of moderate to gusting east winds that helped on three of the four par-fives, the Derry player took advantage and played them in five-under-par, with the highlight and eagle three after a short iron to three feet at the 10th.

"I never putted so badly as I did in the Senior Cup last week, so I changed putter and it's working," beamed Selfridge, who is looking for his first win since the 2007 Ulster Youths.

Portmarnock's James Fox had five birdies in a fine 69, but West of Ireland champion Harry Diamond of Belvoir Park did well to shoot a one- over 73 after starting with a triple- bogey seven at the first.

Galway's Eddie McCormack aced the 168-yard third with a six-iron, but lost a ball and double-bogeyed the par-three sixth as he posted a 74.

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