THE soaring temperatures were matched by some scorching scores at Royal Portrush yesterday during the first qualifying round in the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
Castlerock golfer, Aaron Kearney, leads the way after a fine 65 at The Valley course just one stroke outside the course record he holds jointly with former winner, Wayne Telford.
Kearney (27) was two over after six holes but covered the last 11 in an amazing seven-under-par.
A 12-feet birdie at the eighth got him going and he pitched to tap in distance for another birdie at nine to turn in regulation 35.
The birdie hat-trick was complete at the long 10th, where he reached the green in two.
He rolled home a 15-footer at 12 and hit the surface again in two at the par five 13th. Another birdie putt disappeared on 16 and he polished off his round with an eight iron to eight feet for a two at 18.
“Towards the end of last year I took an inch off my putter and put on two weights,” added Kearney who reached the last 16 in the British Amateur Championship, a few weeks ago.
“That has greatly helped my short game as I have been putting well all year and I landed a few good ones today.
“Last year, I missed the cut here but, hopefully, that won’t happen this time.”
Biting at his heels, however, are a number of players on 66, including Tiarnan McLarnon and Cormac Sharvin.
McLarnon did his work around the turn as he covered holes nine to 13 in five-under-par.
He birdied the first hole from 10 feet but gave the shot back when he mis-clubbed at seven before he turned on the powerplay.
A 93-yard approach to the ninth green settled 10 feet from the flag and he holed for birdie three.
He backed that up with a four at the long 10th where he hammered a three wood from 250-yards, again to 10 feet from the pin but, this time, he took two putts to get down, narrowly missing an eagle.
He did, however, pick up an eagle on the 13th green after a drive and eight iron to 20 feet from where he rolled home the putt and he backed that up with a eight foot birdie at the next hole.
Strangely, he putted from the edge of the 15th green for bogey four.
Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin, an Ardglass plus-three handicapper, was regulation for the first 12 holes but then went eagle-birdie and finished with birdie two, covering the final six holes in four-under-par.
Also on 66 was local John Turner who was out in one-under-34 and then went birdie-birdie-par-eagle-par-birdie to be seven-under but finished bogey-bogey.
Alan Grant had seven birdies and an eagle sprinkled on his card but posted only a 68.
The best round of the opening day on the Dunluce course belonged to Castleblayney golfer Colin Wilton who carded a two under 70.
The players switch courses today after which, the leading 64 progress to the matchplay stages which begin on Wednesday.
north of ireland amateur championship
70 C Wilton (Castleblayney)
71 A Stevens (Spa)
73 R Gordon (Donaghadee), G Managh (Knock), A Montgomery (Old Conna), E Long (Monkstown), F
74 R Knightly (Royal Dublin), A Dillon (Carrickfergus), C Wedgeworth (Pollok), C McCaughey (Dungannon)
75 C Lavery (Rossmore), S Cave (Holywood), S Alley (Co. Tipperary), J Breen (Kirkistown Castle), B Stevens (Spa)
76 R Long (Cairndhu), M Abram (Cairndhu), N McGlynn (Carton House), G Arthur (Carrickfergus), S Boles (Bangor)
77 P Sheldon (Edenmore), M McHugh (Castleblayney), R Tighe (Elm Park), F Tallon (Lurgan), C Watt (Lurgan), D Peacock (Bangor), G Bradley (Portstewart), L Burns (Mourne), B Galway (Cairndhu), S Hamill (Massereene), M Murphy (Clandeboye)
78 G Moore (Lurgan), G Baxter (Cairndhu), M O’Donovan (Castlerock), S Moore (Newbridge), D
Crawford (Moyola Park), P McGuigan (Foyle), M Rooney (Co. Sligo), L Stevenson (Rathmore), R Evans (Moyola Park), M Hammond (Moyola Park), A McCully (Spa), G O’Connor (Malahide), M Timmins (Mount Wolseley)
79 M Judge (Stackstown), C McGurgan (City of Derry), C McCann (Lurgan), G Finnegan (Co. Sligo), D Byrne (Athenry), J Lindsay (North West/Ulster), J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), B Martin (Killymoon), M McAvoy (Lurgan), A Kerr (Clandeboye), M Molloy (Silverwood), P Crawley (Co. Sligo), M Reynolds (Dromoland)
80 M Zillekens (Bergisch Land), A Gallagher (Shandon Park), G Flynn (Delgany), M Dallat (Ballycastle), R Houston (Rathmore), D Sweeney (Westmanstown), M Furlong (Arklow), P McLarnon (Fortwilliam), P Ross (Dunmurry), S Adamson (Royal Belfast), S Barker (Mourne)
81 J Heaslip (Ballyclare), T Lindsay (Fortwilliam), J Owens (Bangor), B Loftus (Lahinch), N Duggan
(Dromoland), S Lyttle (Royal Portrush), G Mowat (Enniskillen), A Threadgold (Charlesland), G
MacNamara (Woodbrook), M Kiernan (Delgany), O Crooks (Bushfoot), S Murray (Moyola Park), C
Blaney (Co. Meath), L Mulligan (Stackstown), D Shaw (Belvoir Park)
82 C Steele (Ballyclare), S Kinch (Hollystown), S Kelly (Omagh), M Nolan (Delgany), B Lynch (Ballinrobe), S O’Connor (Carton House/NUIM), N McClay (Cairndhu), N Cromwell (Co. Armagh), D Cosgrove (Kilcock), S Hughes (Killymoon), C Dunbar (Rathmore)
83 A Owens (Castle Hume), M Downes (Lucan), R McCullough (Massereene), R Carvill (Warrenpoint), D Hughes (Fortwilliam), M McGowan (Ballybofey/S), A Lilley (Ballyclare), B O’Reilly (Athenry), R Harpur (Tandragee), R McLarnon (Fortwilliam)
84 P McCabrey (Lurgan), G Cohen (Beaverstown), I Ross (Whitehead), A Coulter (Lisburn), D Ritchie (Portpatrick), M Gaynor (Country Club), G Morrow (Lisburn), M McCormick (West Middlesex), E Downes (Lucan), S Winsby (Whitehead)
85 S Kelly (Lurgan), J Kelly (Elm Park), J O’Sullivan (Co. Louth), P Gibb (Massereene), L Gort (Castletown), B Campbell (Malone), C Miller (Clandeboye), P Tanham (Delgany), E Hannon (Lee Valley)
86 L Connolly (Wexford), L Moore (City of Derry), M Crowe (Elm Park), P Kiernan (Delgany), A McAteer (Whitehead), D Barber (Portstewart)
87 C Flanagan (Old Conna), P Neville (Athenry)
88 M Dickson (Dunmurry), L Doran (Ardee), G McNally (Lurgan)
89 E Lynch (Lurgan), S Scott (Baberton)
91 C Hull (Massereene)
92 J McCarthy (Portmarnock), P Hennessy (Lahinch)
93 D Senior (Shandon Park), J McClure (Studley Wood), L Harnett (Milltown)
95 D Cummins (Co. Meath)
99 F Furey (Stackstown)
NR M McCusker (Holywood) NR, K Canavan (Corballis Links) NR, S Brownlow (Dun Laoghaire) NR, S
Jeffers (Castletown) NR
WTD D Baker (Downpatrick) WTD
65 A Kearney (Castlerock)
66 C Sharvin (Ardglass), T Harris (Castletown), T McLarnon (Massereene), J Turner (Royal Portrush)
67 D McElroy (Ballymena), D Sutton (Lurgan), R Bridges (Stackstown), G Bohill (Co. Louth), B Best
(Rathmore), B Casey (Headfort), P Graham (Galgorm Castle), G McDermott (Co. Sligo)
68 C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), N Grant (Knock), G Collins (Rosslare), M McKnight (LPGA
69 S Miskelly (Knock), J Richardson (Royal Portrush), S Walsh (Portmarnock), R Symington (Lisburn), I Kettyle (Rathmore), R McKinstry (Cairndhu), S Carter (Stackstown), G Dunne (Co. Louth), G Young (Birr)
70 G Lenehan (Portmarnock), D Mulholland (Castlerock), S Coulter (Warrenpoint), G Mungovan (Headfort), B Anderson (Royal Dublin), E Farrell (Ardee), J Yates (Naas), G Clarke (Lurgan), S Watts (Cairndhu), K Egan (Carton House)
71 C Moulds (Lisburn), S Grehan (Tullamore), S O’Connor (Luttrellstown Castle), R Cannon (Balbriggan), S Cullen (Slieve Russell), C Murphy (Clandeboye), T Gandy (Rowany), W Russell (Clandeboye), S East (Moortown), J McMahon (The Carrick), G Hurley (West Waterford/NUIM), P Reavey (Warrenpoint), M Reid (Galgorm Castle), J Ashman (Worthing), K McDonagh (Athlone)
72 C Johnston (Perranporth), I Moore (Dunmurry), N Crawford (Mourne), T Jordan (Dungannon), P Coughlan (Moate), S McGlynn (Carton House), R Kenny (Naas), M McAlpin (Royal Portrush), S O’Hara (Co. Sligo), A Morris (Belvoir Park), J Gourley (Holywood), S Ryan (Royal Dublin), J Finnegan (Royal Portrush), J Galbraith (Whitehead), R O’Reilly (Headfort)
73 A Grant (Dundalk), A Lowry (Esker Hills), H Whittle (Woburn), K Quigg (City of Derry), D Vaughan (Ardglass), A McCloy (Ballymena), K Lynch (Skibbereen/NUIM), S Speirs (Brunston Castle), A Purdy (Ballyclare), D McCusker (Moyola Park), B Fitzsimons (Downpatrick)
74 E Smith (Ardee), S Bryan (Delgany), J Timlin (Dungannon), M McSherry (Lurgan), S Ward (Co. Louth), G Laird (Clandeboye), J Hopkins (Royal Dublin), P McCrudden (Royal Portrush), S Healy (Claremorris), G McKenna (Fortwilliam), M Rae (Rowany), C Dullaghan (Greenore), L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin), J Maginn (Mourne), M Cox (Hindhead)
75 C Campbell (Warrenpoint), E O’Connor (Elm Park), C Morrison (Spa), G McAuley (Dunmurry), C McGrogan (Newbridge), M Sinclair (Knock), S Bleakley (Shandon Park), M McGarry (Ballymena)
76 H Diamond (Belvoir Park), A Doran (Ardee), S McShane (Holywood), P Fitzsimons (Downpatrick), C Carroll (Shandon Park), C Selfridge (Moyola Park), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), D Callister (Mount Murray), C O’Rourke (Naas/NUIM), S Crowe (Dunmurry), L Thompson (Rookery Park), B Cashman (Belvoir Park), D Holland (Castle), E Heywood (City of Derry)
77 I Brennan (Greenore), S Underwood (Co. Sligo), J Feenan (Ardglass), W Hanna (Kilkeel), P Delaney (Arklow), E Griffin (Waterford)
78 J Tisdale (Salina GC), R McNeill (Gracehill), M Richards (Roganstown), J Mackay (Ballyclare), M Gielty (Grange), A Meharg (Bright Castle), R Loney (Tandragee), T Coffey (Slieve Russell), W Bamber (Royal Portrush), J Conroy (Bray)
79 L Crawford (Clandeboye), J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), A Brady (Ballymena), S Maloney (Dunmurry Springs), C McErlane (Fortwilliam), D McGeough (North West), D Brennan (Shannon)
80 S McCarthy (Killeen/NUIM), L McMillan (Carton House)
81 E O’Donovan (Craddockstown), G Dickson (Dunmurry), S Lee (Co. Armagh), C Melvin (Corrstown)
82 G McDowell (Rathmore)
84 J Greer (Greenisland), S Bell (Gracehill)
85 R Armstrong (Royal Golf Club)
88 J Ward (Banbridge)
NR D Baker (Downpatrick), T Fay (Rush)