Mist still causing havoc at North of Ireland Amateur Open in Portrush
It may be the most glorious summer weather any of us have seen in years – but not at Royal Portrush as the North of Ireland Amateur Open continues to be plagued by horrendously unseasonal conditions.
For the second day in a row play was brought to a halt as mist and fog rolled in off the Atlantic and now the organisers are resigned to the championship going into an unscheduled sixth day on Saturday.
"The question now is if we can have just the final played on Saturday, or if we will need to play the semi-finals then as well," explained Ulster Branch secretary Kevin Stevens. "There's no doubt now that we are going to have the tournament completed on schedule by Friday. There are matches backed up all over the course.
"It's quite amazing that everyone is enjoying this incredible weather, but in this very tiny part of the country, we are having all these difficulties. You only have to travel a few miles to be in brilliant sunshine, but here you can hardly see your hand in front of your face."
The upshot is that only a handful of first round matchplay ties have been completed – although the second qualifying round was played to a conclusion yesterday morning. Last night the schedule was being hastily redrawn again to try to have every match bar the final played on Saturday, but the worry is that the mist will return around tea-time today and upset even those plans.
Of the knockout matches which were completed Moyola Park's Chris Selfridge found it hard going against Jamie Richardson of the host club in their first round clash. The Portrush man was two up after three but Selfridge had levelled by the turn and held a slender one hole lead by the 15th which he converted into a two and one win.
Colin Wilton of Castleblaney had a much more straightforward win over Rathmore's Ian Kettyle, winning the first three holes and completing a six and four first round win.
After a cagey start Knock's Michael Sinclair gained the upper hand in his battle with Aaron Kearney, going four up on the Castlerock man by the 12th hole and going on to win three and two.
Leading qualifier Brian Casey from Headfort continued to demonstrate his good form with a five and four win over Ardee's Eugene Smith.
Casey had finished as leading qualifier with an aggregate of 135, pipping Rathmore's Ben Best and Tiarnan McLarnon to the silver medal.
Dermot McElroy's combined total of 137 was good enough to see him qualify for the knockout rounds in fourth place level with Castlerock's Aaron Kearney and Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass.
Harry Diamond's rounds of 76 and 70, completed before the delay in play, were good enough to see him into the last 64 in joint 44th place, the Belvoir Park man level with former Ulster Boys' champion John Ross Galbraith from Whitehead who had steady rounds of 74 and 72 over the first couple of days.
Selfridge just sneaked in on the qualifying mark of 147 – seven players on that aggregate missed out on places in the matchplay stage.
Notable absentees yesterday afternoon included Diamond's clubmate Barry Cashman, Dunmurry's Stephen Crowe, Royal Portrush's Matthew McAlpin and Patrick McCrudden as well as Graeme McDowell's brother Gary.