Amateur Championship: Selfridge quick to slip into his rhythm
With the attention of the golfing world firmly focused on the official announcement that Royal Portrush would return to the rota for hosting The Open, the Amateur Championship was also taking place on the north coast.
Held at both the Royal Portrush and Portstewart courses, the 119th edition of the famous old tournament welcomes 288 competitors from as far afield as South America, Mexico and New Zealand compete for the prestigious title.
Despite the international field, there was still plenty of local interest with Chris Selfridge's -2 at Portstewart the pick of a seven-strong Northern Irish contingent.
Moyola Park's Selfridge – who won the North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush last July – bogeyed the third before birdies on the sixth, ninth, 13th and 17th had him at three under par.
A dropped shot at 18 brought up his final score of -2, two shots off the leader Daniel Brown and in a tie for seventh place.
Brown, from Bedale in Yorkshire, looked like the man to beat from early on after birdies at three of the first five holes. However, three dropped shots over the next five left him at even par through 10. A late surge then saw him birdie the 12th, 13th, 16th and 18th to storm into the lead.
He is one shot ahead of Mathieu Fenasse of France who, also at Royal Portrush, birdied three of his last six holes for an impressive 67.
Meanwhile at Portstewart, Victor Fasmer Henum of Denmark and the British pair of Ryan Evans and Liam Johnston also finished the first day on -3.
The field has been split in two so that competitors who played Royal Portrush yesterday will play Portstewart today and vice versa.
The collated scores from the two rounds will then decide the 64 players who will take part in the four days of matchplay that determine who lifts the trophy on Saturday.
Victory would be a major fillip to any aspiring professional's career as the winner will gain entry to both next month's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake and the 2015 U.S Open, as well as an expected invitation to The Masters next spring.
With only eight of yesterday's 26 under par scores coming at Royal Portrush, Cormac Sharvin of Ardglass will be confident of making it to tomorrow after he shot an even par 70 at the home of the 2012 Irish Open.
Sharvin – a previous winner of the Irish Close Championship – birdied the third and the 12th but bogeys on the sixth, 13th and 14th, meant he needed a three at the last to save par.
A trio of Northern Ireland's other entrants found themselves among a large group on five over which was only good enough for a share of 157th place.
Jamie Donaldson looked set for a better score but dropped four shots on his last five holes at Portstewart and will be hoping for a better day today on his home course.
Gareth Lappin of Belvoir Park and Mourne's Reeve Whitson also shot five over, albeit while playing the more testing of the two courses.
Lappin's Belvoir Park clubmate Harry Diamond birdied his first hole at Portrush but that was as good as it got and he eventually carded a frustrating 78 to sit eight over par and in a tie for 230th place.
Also requiring nothing short of a minor miracle to continue his week is Tiarnan McLarnon of Massarene, whose round of 80 at Portstewart left him languishing in a tie for 245th place.
Play begins today at 7.00am for both courses and Selfridge will be the first local player out when he begins his Royal Portrush round at 8.50am.