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McKibben has to find another gear to keep his title hopes alive

 

Tough day: Tom McKibbin struggled
Tough day: Tom McKibbin struggled

By Paul Kelly

There wasn't an awful lot to write home about for the Irish players on day one of the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock and The Island golf clubs yesterday.

In testing conditions, Portmarnock member, James Fox, fired a one-over par 73 to lead the Irish challenge alongside Waterford's Eanna Griffin. The duo are tied for 32nd going into today's second and final round of stroke-play qualifying before 64 players and ties advance to the match play stages.

The Ulster players also suffered yesterday with Holywood's Tom McKibbin, playing at The Island, posting a 75 to share 106th place.

Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene GC) is further back again in a tie for 227th position, Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick) is tied for 243rd and Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 287th.

Morocco's Ayoub Ssouadi, Germany's Anton Albers and England's Harry Hall lead the way after finishing the day on four under par. There are competitors from 37 countries in the 288-player field and Ssouadi's round featured six birdies as he took an immediate liking to links golf.

"I'm very proud to be here representing Morocco and enjoying this challenge," said Ssouadi.

With exemptions into The Open at Royal Portrush up for grabs next month, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament, there is much at stake this week.

Ireland's leading player and another Portmarnock member, Conor Purcell, will have to pick up the pace today if he hopes to make it through to the match-play stages. The world ranked number 17 struggled to a five-over-par 76 on The Island.

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