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Trio on song at Portstewart but Hill sets pace in North of Ireland

 

Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Athenry's Allan Hill leads the way after the opening day of stroke play qualifying at the North of Ireland Championship at Portstewart and Castlerock.

The scratch golfer shot a six-under par 67 on the Mussenden links at Castlerock to lead the way by one stroke from Ballyliffin's Kealan Quigg, who also played his opening round at Castlerock.

Declan Lafferty (Portstewart), Declan Hughes (Fortwilliam) and Matthew Murphy (Clandeboye) were the top scorers at Portstewart, each firing three-under par rounds of 69.

The better of the first day's scoring came at Castlerock, where Neill Simpson (Kirkistown Castle) shot a four-under par 69 to finish the opening round as the best scoring Northern Irishman in the field.

Former Irish international and Ulster Stroke Play champion Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), who could go top of the Bridgestone Order of Merit with a semi-final appearance this week, began his tournament with a one-under 72 at Castlerock.

Robert Brazill (Naas), who is fourth in the Order of Merit, opened with a four-under 69, while defending champion Ian Lynch shot a level-par 73, both at Castlerock.

The 300-strong field will play their second stroke play round today at the course they did not play yesterday, with the top-64 at the conclusion of play qualifying for tomorrow's matchplay at Portstewart, with the current cut mark sitting at one-over par.

This year's tournament is split between Portstewart and Castlerock due to Royal Portrush, which is the usual venue, playing host to The Open next week.

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