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McClean leads Ulster battle for Lahinch joy

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Beth Coulter. Credit: David Lloyd

Beth Coulter. Credit: David Lloyd

David Lloyd

Beth Coulter. Credit: David Lloyd

Ireland international Matthew McClean is the leading Ulsterman after the opening day of stroke play qualifying for the South of Ireland Open Championship at Lahinch.

On a day of good fortunes for Ulster players at the Clare links, the Malone man, who represented Ireland at the European Team Championships, was the top local performer after a five-under 67 that featured six birdies and one bogey to see him sit sixth.

In total, 14 Ulster players are inside the cut mark as it stands, with the top-64 finishers after today’s second round of stroke play qualifying for the match play, which begins tomorrow.

Athlone’s Thomas O’Connor is the leading qualifier after the first round after shooting a nine-under 63 to lead by two from Portumna’s Sam Murphy, with Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy, Naas’ David Marshall Jnr and Elm Park’s Robert Galligan a shot further behind.

After McClean, Fortwilliam’s Hugh O’Hare and Lisburn’s Aaron Marshall are the next best Ulster players, situated at four-under after 68s, while North West’s Kyle McCarron and Galgorm Castle teenager Joshua Hill are a shot further back after 69s.

Ulster Stroke Play champion Robert Moran, who will tee it up at next week’s World Invitational, is well placed to make the match play after a five-under 67, while North of Ireland winner Alex Maguire opened with a 68.

The cut currently lies at one-over, where Shane McDermott (Slieve Russell), Ronan McCrory (Lurgan), Ryan Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranolar), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), Joshua Robinson (Lisburn) and Belvoir Park duo Gareth Lappin and Jake Rowe are all situated.

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Meanwhile, Kirkistown Castle teenager Beth Coulter is the leading Irish woman at the European Ladies’ Amateur Championship in Italy but is already five shots off the lead after the opening day.

Coulter carded four birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey in a one-under 71 in her first round at Royal Park I Roveri in Turin to trail early leader Ester Fägersten.

The Swede bounced back from an early bogey with seven birdies in a six-under 66, which has her two ahead of fellow countrywoman Sara Kjellker and Germany’s Paula Kirner after day one.

Elsewhere, Stephanie Meadow is off in the first group of the day at the Evian Championship in France at 7.30am UK time, with Leona Maguire starting her Major push at 8.42am.

At the Seniors Open Championship at Sunningdale, Darren Clarke tees off at 1.10pm, while Cormac Sharvin is out at 7.31am at the Cazoo Open at Celtic Manor in Wales.


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