It was a battle of Ulster v Leinster at Mount Juliet yesterday evening, and it was the southern province who prevailed.
In one of the final groups of players still on the course practicing ahead of the Horizon Irish Open, amateur Colm Campbell found himself paired with Cormac Sharvin taking on fellow amateur Mark Power and former Open champion Shane Lowry.
It was tight, with the teams all square standing on the par-five 17th tee, but a beautiful putt from Power for birdie put the Leinster boys one up, and they clinched it with a par down the last.
“It was just nice to get nine holes with the Open champion, it was a lot of fun,” grinned Campbell, gracious in defeat.
Indeed, just getting the opportunity to play alongside Lowry was a bonus for the Warrenpoint man who, up until only a couple of weeks ago, didn’t even know he would be playing this week.
Although his win at the Irish Amateur Open in 2016 immediately earned him a spot at The K Club, his place at Mount Juliet after claiming his second Open title a couple of months ago was less clear, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago Campbell still wasn’t sure if he would be in.
But then the call did come — ironically while he was competing at The Amateur Championship — the accommodation was quickly booked and, having now played a practice round with the best-ranked player in the field, he’s excited to get stuck into the real action tomorrow.
“Obviously there’s a little more going on in terms of infrastructure and crowd, and you’re playing with pros. But to me, my routine doesn’t change. I’ll just stick to what I normally do in a tournament week,” said Campbell.
“The big goal for me is just to enjoy it and play well. Realistically, making the cut would be a big achievement given the field that’s here, anything else is a bonus. But if I play well, I know I can do that.”
• KNOCK’S Katie Poots leads the stroke play qualifying at the Irish Girls’ Close at Kilkeel after a one-over 75, with Clandeboye’s Molly O’Hara and Kirkistown Castle’s Beth Coulter tied for third at three over.
Meanwhile, Warrenpoint’s Harry McArdle and Belvoir Park’s Darcy Hogg are the best placed local players at the Irish Boys’ Close at the same venue, the par tied seventh after five-over 77s.
At the Irish Senior Men’s Close at Thurles, Holywood’s Patrick Mitchell is the top Ulster player after the first round as a two-over 74 has him in a share of 13th.
Royal Portrush’s Laura Webb is the leading Ulsterwoman at the Irish Senior Women’s Close, also at Thurles, in a share of sixth at six over, with club-mate Mary MacLaren a shot behind.
At all four Championships the top 16 will qualify for the match play stages after the second round of stroke play is completed today.