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Flawless O’Rourke lives up to favourite’s tag after slick round

 

By Paul Kelly

Conor O’Rourke lived up to his billing as one of the pre-event favourites by firing a brilliant five-under-par round of 66 to lead the way after the opening day of qualifying at the West of Ireland Championship.

The Naas GC golfer who entered the tournament with the lowest handicap of the field at +4.8 was almost flawless around the beefed up Co Sligo GC course.

Playing in the final group of the day, the 25-year old reigning St Andrews Links Trophy champion reached the turn in five-under par 31 with birdies at the first, second, fifth, seventh and eighth.

He birdied the par-five 12th to reach six under for the day but dropped back with a pair of dropped shots at the 14th and 17th before wrapping up his round with a birdie three on 18 to take a two stroke lead over Dundalk’s Eoin Murphy.

Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), William Russell (Clandeboye), John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle) and Hugh O’Hare (Fortwilliam) are the leading Ulster players and well placed to make the cut after opening rounds of level par 71.

The leading 64 players will make it through the match-play stages after the second round today. A number of the tournament favourites, amongst them defending champion Jonathan Yates (Naas) 73, Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 75, Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) 77 and Alex Gleeson (Castle) 79 will need to improve.

Meanwhile, over in France, Lurgan’s Annabel Wilson followed up her opening round 68 with a second round 76 to reach the match play stages of the French International U21 Championship at Saint-Cloud. And Holywood’s Tom McKibbin made it a week to remember by adding the Ulster U16 Close title to the Munster Boys title at Castlerock yesterday.

On Tuesday, the 14-year-old fired a final round 69 to win the Munster crown and yesterday he beat Greenacres’ Keaton Morrison 6&4 in the Ulster final.

The duo, both Ulster representatives, shared seven birdies in total on the challenging Mussenden Links. Tom made a flying start opening up with four birdies to take an early four up lead before Keaton hit back with a birdie at the fifth to cut the deficit.

The next three holes were halved before Tom won the ninth to turn for home four up, wrapping up the match by chipping in for birdie at the 14th.

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