Wednesday 17 January 2018

Dunne leads trio of young guns targeting East

Brian Keogh

Youth will have its fling today with Greystones' Paul Dunne heading a trio of recent Irish Youths champions in a 36-hole battle for the coveted East of Ireland Amateur Open at a balmy Baltray.

The 20-year old University of Alabama Birmingham finance student, who added the Irish Youths title to his brace of Irish Boys crowns in 2010, avoided County Louth's thick rough and putted aggressively on billiard table greens to fire seven birdies in a superb 68 for a seven-under-par total of 137 and a four-stroke lead over Headfort's Brian Casey.

Having taken advantage of benign conditions in the morning, Dunne was able to retire to his accommodation in one of the 'dormy' rooms above the clubhouse to recharge his batteries but despite the lack of wind, only 2011 Irish Youths champion Casey (22) and reigning champion Stuart Grehan (20) from Tullamore were able to get even close to his total in the afternoon.

Casey, who won last year's Mullingar Scratch Cup and Munster Strokeplay titles in some style, reckoned that he played "clever" golf to card six birdies and just three bogeys in a late afternoon 69 to go into the final two rounds as Dunne's nearest pursuer on three-under 141.

Grehan (20), who has just completed his freshman year at Eastern Michigan University, showed the kind of consistency that brought him last season's Irish Youths Championship at Loughrea when he carded a second successive 71 to sit alone in third place, five shots behind Dunne on two-under 142.

Starting on the back nine, the leader bogeyed the 11th but birdied the 13th from 20 feet and the 15th from 15 feet, saved par with a couple of 12-footers at the 17th and 18th and then came home in three-under with bogeys at the first and fifth erased by solid birdies at the second, third, sixth, seventh and ninth.

"I like the greens because they are very true and they are cut nicely," said Dunne, who holed seven putts between 10 and 20 feet.

"In America I am used to greens that are a little bit quicker, so it means I can give the putts a go here without being too worried about the one back.

"It allows me to be aggressive from the 10 to 20-feet range. And I got a few to drop today, so hopefully I can do the same tomorrow."

As overnight leader Des Morgan tangled too often with the rough and fell eight shots off the pace after a 77, Co Sligo's Gary McDermott fed off the memories of a recent practice nine with Des Smyth and Declan Branigan to pepper his 68 with seven birdies and go into the final day tied for fourth with Rathmore's Ben Best and Luttrellstown Castle's Shaun O'Connor, six shots adrift on 143.

"I didn't win the money but I got a lesson," said 32-year old McDermott, who hacked out of deep rough at the last and then hit a 202-yard five-iron to 12 feet at the 18th for his final birdie of the day. "I paid attention and learned where not to miss it."

The cut fell at six-over-par 150, with Matt McKnight (74-76) the unlucky player failing to make the top 51 qualifiers after a countback.

details in factfile

Irish Independent

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