Teenager Joshua Hill insisted he never thought about shooting 59 as he took advantage of windless conditions and fired 11 birdies in a 10-under 62 to lead the qualifiers in the Pierse Motors South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.
The Galgorm Castle star (18) birdied the 16th from four inches to head to the 17th needing a birdie-eagle finish for a magical 59.
But while he ended up lipping out from around 10 feet for birdies on the last two greens, his career-low 10-under 62 saw him top the qualifiers by two shots from defending champion TJ Ford from Co Sligo on 12-under 132.
“To be honest with you, I was just trying to qualify and shooting 59 never entered my head, not even when I birdied 16,” said Hill, 19 next month, who made 11 birdies with his only error a three-putt bogey at the eighth.
“I just wanted to qualify and I was playing safe to the middle of the greens and all of sudden 30- and 40-footers started to drop on the front nine. Then on the back nine I thought I might as well go for it a little bit and have fun with it. It was good fun out there.”
Now enjoying a gap year before he heads to the University of South Alabama, he’s looking to make a run at his first senior title after going down to beaten finalist Alan Fahy in last year’s quarter-finals.
After a birdie at the second, he made a 30-footer at the third, then added birdies at the fourth (six feet), sixth (50 feet), seventh (12 feet) and followed a three-putt bogey from 30 feet at the eighth with another birdie from 30 feet at the ninth.
Out in five-under 31, he birdied the 10th (10 feet), 11th (six feet), 12th (chip and putt) and the driveable 13th, where he hit a hybrid on the green and missed from around 10 feet for eagle,
After two-putt pars at the 14th and 15th, he hit a nine-iron to four inches at the 16th to go 10-under but lipped out for birdies on the last two greens.
England’s Robert Rock shot a course record 12-under 60 in the third round of the 2019 Irish Open but Hill’s round would not have counted as a championship record as the field played mainly from the white tees.
Defending champion Ford (25), the tall and powerful County Sligo man, carded a bogey-free, eight-under 64 to finish second on 10-under as Elm Park’s Charlie Denvir (22) also shot 64, making two eagles (from six feet at the second and 80 yards at the ninth) to finish third on nine-under.
North of Ireland champion Hugh Foley from Royal Dublin shot 68 to tie for fourth with clubmate Richard Knightly (70) and East of Ireland champion Alex Maguire (69) on seven-under as the cut for the top 64 fell at two-over par.