GOLF is in serious danger of losing its reputation as an old man's game. Easterly gales, which howled across Royal Dublin at 30 mph and over, didn't so much separate man from boy at the Irish Amateur Open yesterday, as the teenagers from the twenty-somethings.
How appropriate that the surname of the leader, Robert Kind means 'child' in his native Dutch.
Just 19 and a former underage soccer international before knee injuries forced him to quit the sport, Kind was the only player to beat par on a day in which the Standard scratch was 77 and just 68 of the 120-man field broke 80.
A wonderful pitch-in from 87 yards for eagle two into the teeth of the wind at 16 and deft up-and-down pars at 17 and 18 brought Kind's round of 71 to a splendid climax and copper-fastened his one stroke lead over Rhys Pugh of Wales, at 17 a shoo-in for next September's Walker Cup, and Greenore's Ian Brennan, 20.
When Brennan struck the first ball at 7.30 yesterday morning, a gentle breeze caressed the fescues on Bull Island...but by the time he reached 16 it was blowing a hooley.
Brennan, who works shifts in the shop at Greenore Golf Club, is a big hitter, who on a calm day would require little more than driver and a wedge to make the green at Royal Dublin's 18th.
Yet he needed to hit a full-blooded 3-wood to make it across The Garden yesterday to leave himself with a 10-foot putt, which Brennan sank for birdie, a feat matched by few.
Carlow's South of Ireland champion John Greene, at 25 the eldest by-far of the four players sharing fourth on one-over, appeared to be coping best with conditions as he headed for the 15th tee on three-under before the cruel wind took its toll and he finished with four successive bogey fives .
Defending champion Alan Dunbar showed his class by chipping in from the rough 50 yards to the right of the 14th green for eagle three, the highlight of his fighting 73, a score also matched by Knock's Colin Fairweather, 19, and Paul Dunne (18) of Greystones.
Playing in his last competitive outing before sitting his Leaving Cert, Dunne showed his mettle by playing the harrowing homeward nine in one-under. In August, he heads for Graeme McDowell's alma-mater, the University of Alabama, Birmingham, where Greystones native Alan Murray is assistant coach.
Dermot McElroy (17), struggled with his putter in the wind as he posted a 79, but, on the bright side, the hot Ballymena prospect has been invited to join the Walker Cup squad for next week's practice session in Royal Aberdeen.