The first round of the matchplay stages in the Magners North of Ireland amateur championships at a windswept Royal Portrush yesterday morning produced a litany of shocks with the three remaining past champions all biting the dust.
Holder Wayne Telford seemed to lose his way on the home stretch after controversy on the 13th when Jonathan Feenan pulled his drive into the rough left of the fairway with the match all square.
He had not marked his ball for identification purposes but was content that the ball found within the requisite time was his. A ruling was requested and Feenan’s word, quite correctly, was accepted and he went on to win the hole and subsequently the match.
The 1997 winner and 2006 champions Michael Sinclair and Darren Crowe also crashed out.
Knock man Sinclair’s match was always tight until he succumbed on the 18th green to County Sligo man Marc Durcan whilst Crowe fell victim to another southern visitor, Athlone’s Kelan McDonagh.
The shocks didn’t end there as Walker Cup panelist and Irish international Paul Cutler, the pre-tournament favourite, departed
to previously unknown Richard Donovan from west Dublin club Lucan.
Telford’s conqueror Feenan caused another upset by accounting for Noel Murray of Dunmurry in round two.
The Ardglass three-handicapper playing in his first North, drove the 90 miles from his home at 5.30am on Monday knowing he was sixth on the reserve list.
He eventually got a place at 10 minutes notice and then qualified by playing a seven iron onto the 18th at the Valley course to ten inches for birdie to make the cut by one.
He now plays Darragh Coughlan conqueror of Irish youth international Chris Selfridge from Moyola Park.
Also into the third round are top qualifiers Gerard Kelly and aaron Kearney along with 17-year-old Ballymena schoolboy Dermot McElroy.
Arguably taking on the mantle of new favourite now is Rathmore’s Irish international Alan Dunbar who beat Ryan McKinstry seven and five and then County Sligo’s Barry Anderson five and three.
l Royal County Down’s Olivia Mehaffy takes on leading qualifier Amy Farrell from Moate in the last 16 of the Lancome Irish Girls’ Close Championship being played at the Grange club in Dublin.