Ulster's Whitson starting to make waves at Portrush
A splendid three under 69 on the Dunluce course saw Mourne's Reeve Whitson easily through to today's matchplay stages of the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.
Scoring conditions were almost perfect on the north coast yesterday and the men lucky enough to have opened up on the Valley course on Monday took full advantage with the Dunluce links yielding easier pickings yesterday.
Whitson was level par to the turn, but started and finished his back nine with consecutive birdies, marred only by a dropped shot on the 16th.
The Ulsterman, though, missed out on the top qualifying spot despite finishing level on six under with Daniel Holland from Castle and Headfort's Rory McNamara. Holland, with his 66 on the Dunluce, finished as the leading qualifier, with McNamara third after his 69 on the Dunluce yesterday.
The best round of the day, though, was Robin Dawson from Faithleff Golf Club, who returned a seven under 65, a round of seven birdies and no dropped shots to storm through the field to fourth in qualifying.
Michael Sinclair from Knock had a 68 on the Dunluce links yesterday to comfortably ease through to the knockout stage at two under overall, while both defending champion Chris Selfridge from Moyola Park and former Ulster boys champion John Ross Galbraith came through on level par after the two qualifying rounds.
Despite picking up a shot at the second, Sinclair was looking a little anxious after he dropped shots at the fourth and sixth holes.
He picked up one of those shots to reach the turn in level par and then embarked of a run of four birdies in six holes.
Selfridge picked up his first shot of the day at the par five second, dropped a shot at the fifth, but picked up two more shots to the turn. He then hit six consecutive pars from the 13th to make sure of his place in the field today.
It was much more of a topsy-turvy round from Galbraith, who dropped a shot on his opening hole, but then eagled the long second.
Further birdies came on the fourth and seventh holes, but he gave them back with a double bogey seven on the ninth.
A second double bogey on the 16th undid the two birdies he picked up on the 11th and 13th holes, although he picked up one more shot on the 15th.
Belvoir Park's Gareth Lappin is still in the mix after a three under 69 yesterday on the Dunluce, as is Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint, who had a level par 72.
Rathmore's Gary McDowell, Graeme's brother, is safely through as well with qualifying scores of 72 and 73.
Other Ulster qualifiers include Ballyclare's Simon McConnell, Paul Reavey from Warrenpoint, Clandeboye's Graeme Laird, Galgorm's Jordan Hood, Daniel Vaughan from Ardglass, Rory Leonard from Banbridge and Joseph Timlin of Dungannon.
One notable absentee from the knockout stages is Belvoir's Barry Cashman, who opened with an uncharacteristic 11-over 81 on Monday and yesterday's level par 72 couldn't make up for it.