GOLFERS PRODUCE GALLANT EFFORT

BALLYMENA golfers Chris Devlin and Dermot McElroy will look back upon their Irish Open adventure last week with a mixture of pride tinged with regret.

The local duo each missed out on making the final two days of the massively successful competition at Royal Portrush by just a single shot after each carding scores of one under par for their opening two rounds.

For 19-year-old McElroy, starting out on what he hopes will become a regular life on the professional tour, it was further evidence of the progress that has seen the Golfing Union of Ireland – who provided him with an invitation to compete as an amateur – earmark him as a talent for the future.

The GUI’s faith in the Dunfane Park youngster appeared to be fully justified as he cruised to -3 – and a place on the giant on-course leaderboard - as he strode to the 18 th tee of his opening round before his tee shot on the final hole found a bunker and led to a double bogey which saw him finish the day at -1.

With the cut expected to be at -2, Dermot knew he had to produce another below par round on Friday and that looked to be on track until his 15 th hole where another double bogey proved costly.

Despite a birdie on his penultimate hole, he could not find the other birdie he needed at his final hole, the ninth, which he had eagled on the first day, with a par leaving him level par for the round and -1 for the championship.

McElroy blamed some errant driving for not shooting a lower score but the experience will once again stand him in good stead, and he will have to be considered a strong contender in the forthcoming North of Ireland Amateur Championship over the same Dunluce links where he performed so well over the past week.

Devlin, who is now based in Florida, but whose family still live in Ballymena, arrived at Royal Portrush on the back of a whirlwind journey, having secured a sponsor’s invitation to play just 72 hours before the tournament began.

A hasty change of plans saw him pull out of a scheduled competition in Chicago and book a pricey flight to Dublin in order to compete.

“No matter what it cost I would have paid it anyway. It meant so much to be here playing in the Irish Open. I always wanted to play in this event ever since I was a kid.”

Like McElroy, Devlin came up just one shot short of qualifying for the final two days and earning himself a handy pay cheque.

Devlin admitted he was “devastated” to miss the cut by such a slender margin, adding: “The course played so tough in the afternoon - but what a great tournament on a brilliant golf course.

“Thanks to everyone who came out to watch, and for all your kind messages,” added Chris, who enjoyed a return to his old stomping ground of Ballymena Golf Club on Monday, prior to returning to the States.