Jim McKee didn’t have to wait long to make his mark this season as he shot his best ever round to lift the day’s top prize the Noel McMurray Memorial Trophy at Lurgan Golf Club on Saturday with 45 points off 5.
Although he dropped a shot at 3, an eagle at 4 and birdies at 5, 8 and 9 brought him to the turn in just 31 shots for an outward 25 points, which 12% of the field failed to better in 18 holes.
A level par homeward run completed a round of 66 shots which will rightfully live long in his memory.
Another player to record a personal best was Douglas Houston whose 43 points, off 25, secured for him the runners-up spot. An NR at 7 and double bogey at the last will have given him some regrets but left him very optimistic for the future.
Third place went to veteran Robert McVeigh with 40 points off 16, and he took the prize on the back 9 from two other players on the same score.
Three nett birdies coming home and no mistakes resulted in 21 points to squeeze out his close rivals.
David Dowey, off 18, who had played his way into the prizes just two weeks ago and is obviously a man in form, came fourth with his 20 points on the back 9.
Although he had eight nett birdies in his round, four double bogeys rather spoiled his chances.
Gary Clarke lifted the first of what is likely to be a myriad of gross prizes this season with 36 gross points.
A pair of birdies on the front 9 were balanced by a pair of bogeys coming home for a very tidy and competent level par round.
Alex Denver could be seen in the early hours on the practice ground and his efforts paid off as he scored 39 points, off 6, to take the low section.
There is no doubt a desire in Alex to return to Category 1 status which he so comfortably achieved and maintained for a lengthy spell last season.
The middle section went to Bryan Turkington with 40 points off 13. There was a spell for Bryan when 40 points seemed an impossible dream but this was second in just four days so he will be cock-a-hoop at the moment.
Colin Darling was travelling in cruise control until a late NR popped up at the 16th. His 38 points, off 22, were still good enough to take the high section to mark this regular prize winner’s return to form.
A couple of players missed out on the prizes by a whisker. Martin McNeice has been playing very well of late and will be disappointed at dropping five shots over the last eight holes, but his 39 points suggest that his hot spell is not likely to end anytime soon.
He has been leading his regular playing partners a merry dance recently and although close rival Iain Mulholland tried his best to keep up, his 38 points meant he just wasn’t good enough.
Gerard Marner’s 39 points also left him empty handed and for the fourth time in a row the 7th hole was his downfall. A triple bogey here followed a trio of consecutive double bogeys meaning just three points at the hole in his last four outings.
That huge lime tree must have seen some shots and heard some colourful language over the decades, but Gerard must be finding it rather difficult at the moment to fully appreciate its undeniable beauty and grace.