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Northern Ireland links courses battle to beat the storms

By Frank Brownlow

ULSTER'S links courses are coping best with the current terrible weather conditions and Royal Portrush just one of those to see action yesterday when many parkland courses were forced to close.

Links courses tend to hold up better in bad weather, while many local courses were reporting waterlogged greens and saturated fairways.

Snow was also a hindrance at several clubs.

But for Royal Portrush, which so successfully staged the 2012 Irish Open and is tipped as a future Open Championship host, it was business as usual.

"The course is very playable because the drainage is so good," explained a club source.

"The ground is very sandy so water doesn't really lie.

"Most of the courses on the north coast are open at the moment – although admittedly there are not too many people playing them.

"It's windy, but that's a lot of what playing golf up here is all about."

The clubs in and around Belfast were worse hit, Belvoir Park just one of many that were closed.

"We were closed all day," confirmed a club source.

Galgorm Castle, host of the Northern Ireland Open, was closed yesterday morning, but was able to open for play in the afternoon.

There will be an inspection this morning to see if the course, near Ballymena, is playable.

Galgorm last week unveiled Michael Hoey as the club's touring professional.

And Hoey is six shots off the lead at the Africa Open – in perfect conditions – after an opening three-under-par 68 at East London Golf Club in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

The Belfast man didn't drop a shot as he fired three birdies but it was only good enough for a share of 44th place.

Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin is struggling to make the cut after a level-par 71 left him sharing 111th spot.

Portugal's Ricardo Santos carded a flawless 62 to claim the lead.

Santos, who was the European Tour rookie of the year in 2012 after winning his first title on home soil in the Madeira Islands Open, fired nine birdies and no bogeys to finish nine under par, two ahead of Garth Mulroy, Rhys Davies, Richard Bland and Lucas Bjerregaard.

Scotland's David Drysdale was among a six-strong group another shot adrift on six under on a day when 91 players broke 70 and 110 finished below par.

"I played really solidly and gave myself a lot of chances for birdie, and I took a lot of those chances," Santos said.

"I'm very pleased to make a run like I did.

"I hit the ball solidly from the tee and my putting was all good.

"To shoot minus nine you have to play awesome golf, so I'm really pleased.

"If the wind blows this is a very tough course, but if you put the ball in the fairway you had the chance to shoot a low round," he added.

"Definitely one of my best rounds of golf so far.

"I put the ball very close, didn't miss a fairway, and that's the key on this course."

Mulroy was leading the South African contingent, out to maintain their remarkable dominance of events on home soil which has produced a string of wins.

George Coetzee's victory in the Joburg Open on Sunday means nine of the last 12 European Tour events staged in South Africa have been won by home players, with all four previous Africa Opens won by South Africans.

Mulroy took up the mantle with an opening 64.

He carded six birdies, an eagle and a bogey to finish seven under par, while Davies fired eight birdies in 16 holes.

Belfast Telegraph


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