Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Northern Ireland Open: Swede dreams for Joakim Lagergren with course record

But Ulsterman stays in touch with record-breaker

On target: Leader Joakim Lagergren on his way to a course record 62 at Galgorm Castle
On target: Leader Joakim Lagergren on his way to a course record 62 at Galgorm Castle

The day may have belonged to Swede Joakim Lagergren and his course record 62, but Ulster trio Jonny Caldwell, Gareth Shaw and Ballymena amateur Dermot McElroy can all feel very pleased with themselves after the opening round of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle.

Caldwell, a former Walker Cup team-mate of Rory McIlroy, sits in a tie for third overnight after a great opening six-under round of 65 while Shaw and McElory are in a tie for eighth after opening with 67 apiece yesterday.

Tournament favourite Michael Hoey threatened the leaderboard when he reached the turn in three under, but slipped away on the back nine and needed a birdie four at the closing hole to come home in a level par 71. That was one shot behind another of the local amateurs, John Ross Galbraith, the reigning Irish Close champion, who is in a tie for 46th place on one under.

Swede Lagergren got the second edition of the Northern Ireland Open off to an explosive start, soaring to his course-record nine under par 62 to take a two-shot lead into today's second round.

The twenty-two-year-old Swede threatened the magic number of 59 when he negotiated his opening 15 holes in eight under par with a par five to play.

He did birdie the ninth, his last hole, having teed off at the tenth, and while he could not create history as the second player to shoot sub-60 on the Challenge Tour, his bogey-free opening round was enough to set a new record low round at the wonderfully-presented Galgorm Castle.

On a day when 4,429 people filed through the gates at what has become the best-attended event in Challenge Tour history, the crowds were treated to a mixed bag weather-wise.

"You can't start any better than this," said the Stockholm player. "I holed a few putts which gave me momentum.

"I wasn't even thinking about the birdies I was making.

"I wasn't even sure how many under par I was but when you get on a roll like that you just don't want to stop."

Frenchman Anthony Snobeck was two shots back on seven under par after signing for a 64 which included two eagles. Meanwhile, Caldwell has so far struggled to emulate his amateur success in the professional ranks, and an impressive six under par 65 moved the 30 year-old to within three shots of the lead in a share of third place alongside another former Walker Cup player, England's Steven Brown.

Galbraith, in the last group out on the course, had an ideal start with a birdie two on the second, but double-bogeyed the par three seventh. But he rounded off the front nine with a birdie four and picked up four more birdies on an impressive back nine.

Hoey has only been in action sporadically since withdrawing from the Open in July with a foot injury and rustiness was perhaps to blame for his pair of double-bogeys yesterday, which spoiled his round. To get round in a level par 71 he needed eagles at the two par fives which round off each nine and he picked up three birdies on the front nine. Thee bogeys on the back nine, though, was not a good return.

Ex-British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar is sitting in a tie for 45th place after a one under 70 while Ardglass' amateur Cormac Sharvin lies two shots further back in a tie for 66th after a 72.

Belfast's Damian Mooney finished on one over and Matt McAlpin is down in a tie for 105th after his opening three over 74.

Reeve Whitson looks likely to miss the cut again after a 77 and Warrenpoint amateur Colm Campbell is on six over after he too carded a 77 which included an eagle and two birdies.

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