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Reeve is in hunt on a tough day at Portrush

By Peter Hutcheon

Mourne's Reeve Whitson shared the lead after the first qualifying day at the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.

On a tough day for low scoring, Whitson was one of just five players under par and is in a three-way share of the lead with Headford's Rory McNamara and Gary McDermott from Carton House at three under. Dundalk's Aaron Grant is in fourth at two under with Conor Coyne from Youghal Golf Club in fifth on one under.

All five scores were compiled on the Valley course with no-one even coming close to breaking par on the Dunluce links. The best anyone managed there was a three over 75 which was carded by Portstewart's Garry McGrotty and Mark Timmins from the Mount Wosely club.

The wet and windy weather of the morning hampered scoring and a few heavy downpours in the afternoon did not improve matters for the players. However the wind died down as the afternoon wore on and a calmer day today could produce an interesting leaderboard as the players chase the 61 places available in tomorrow's knockout rounds through qualifying.

Whitson had six birdies and three dropped shots on his round of 67, including a run of three birdies in four holes on the back nine.

Former Ulster boys champion John Ross Galbraith was left to rue a double-bogey five on the par three 14th which left him signing for a two over 72. That was the same score as Graeme McDowell's brother Gary and Banbridge's Rory Leonard who are all well-placed but will need to tackle the more difficult Dunluce links today.

Rathmore's Ben Best is well placed after an opening level par 70 on the Valley course. He had an eagle three on the fourth, but handed back both those shots on the very next hole with a double-bogey six. His inward nine was less eventful with one birdie and one bogey.

Galgorm Castle's Michael Reid is on the same level par total total after a round of four birdies matched by four dropped shots. Defending champion Chris Selfridge from Moyola Park opened up with a two over 72 on the Valley course.

Leading scores: 67 R Whitson, R McNamara, G McDermott; 68 S Flanagan, A Grant; 69 C Coyne; 70 D Holland, B Anderson, B Best, M Reid, R Knightly; 71 C Campbell, S O'Hara, W Russell, E Smith, J Corke, J Yates; 72 T McLarnon, D Coughland, R Leonard, S Bryan, G McDowell, R Cannon, JR Galbraith, M Judge, M McClean, M Sinclair, C Selfridge; 73 R Dawson, S Miskelly, G Mungovan, R Bridges, T Harris, J Hopkins, R McKinstry, A Wilson, R O'Donovan, R Gribben, G McKenna, M Mullen, J Owens, D Vaughan, J Hood, S Grehan; 74 J Whelan, K Egan, M Morrissey, G Lappin, C Geraghty, R Long, R Pierse, G Collins, S Carter, T Gandy, E Farrell, A Lowry, C Carroll, D Sutton, J Tisdale, C O'Rourke, D Mullholland; 75 G McGrotty, M Timmins, S Barker, M Sutton, A Morris, G Lenehan, H McHugh, A Purdy, C Moulds, P McCrudden, D Callister, S O'Connor, J Lindsay, R Carvill

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