Paul O'HaraPaul O’Hara lines up a putt on the third at Lahinch. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ieCairndhu’s Ryan McKinstry dodged a bullet to beat Rathmore’s Ben Best at the 23rd and reach the semi-finals of the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.

The 20-year old Queens University pharmacy student was two up with five to play but lost the 14th and 15th to pars, reclaimed the advantage with winning par at the 16th but then drove out of bounds at the last to be taken to extra holes.

After holing a 20 foot bomb at the 20th to stay alive, he eventually came through at the famous blind par-three fifth - The Dell - where Best drew a poor lie right of the green and couldn’t get up and down.

It was a sad end to a long, tough day for Best, who played superbly to edge out Ardee’s Eugene Smith at the 21st in the fifth round.

Nicky GrantNicky Grant hits on the 11th tee. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ieMcKinstry will now face 34-year old surprise package Paul O’Hara in this morning’s semi-finals after the unheralded Kilkenny player took advantage of an off-colour performance by Knock’s Nicky Grant to ease to a facile 3 and 2 victory.

“I just wasn’t at the races really,” said Grant, who played six matches in Ulster’s Interprovincial Championship win in Cork last week. “I was certainly tired but I just didn’t putt well at all and my concentration was terrible. I just hit too many bad shots.”

O’Hara birdied the 12th and 13th to take a four up lead and while he lost the 15th to a par, Grant could not birdie the 16th from 30 feet and bowed out.

“This is rarified air,” O’Hara said. “The birdies at the 12th and 13th were key because I knew I needed to get my nose in front against a player of Nicky’s quality. I always knew I could play but to keep your head in this company and just believe in yourself is what is needed.”

The other semi-final promises to be a high quality affair with former Boys star Alex Gleeson from Castle taking on 2006 champion Simon Ward from County Louth with a putter he borrowed from his caddie and uncle, John Gleeson.

“I was playing well coming in and hoping to do well but it’s all down to the putter,” said Gleeson, who beat Shannon’s Ed Hickey 5 and 4 before edging out Royal Dublin’s Bryan McSweeney 2 and 1 in a very tight affair. “I couldn’t putt the first two days, but I’ve holed everything since I put it in the bag after the third round.”

He will certainly need his best game against 26-year old Ward, who plans to turn professional in September.

The Carrickmacross native brilliantly birdied the 15th and took the 16th in par to go two up against last year’s runner up Stephen Healy and then held on to win by one hole as the Claremorris man closed with two brave but ultimately fruitless birdies.

“You finish with two birdies and go home,” Healy said wistfully. “That’s matchplay. I played better this week than I did in getting to the final last year but Simon played very well.”

Semi-finals (Wednesday 31 July)

(8.30) Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) v Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny)

(8.45) Alex Gleeson (Castle) v Simon Ward (Co Louth).

Quarter-finals (Tuesday 30 July)

Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) bt Ben Best (Rathmore) 23rd

Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny) bt Nicky Grant (Knock) 3/2,

Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Bryan McSweeney (Royal Dublin) 2/1.

Simon Ward (Co Louth) bt Stephen Healy Claremorris) 1h.


Cairndhu’s Ryan McKinstry held off a spirited late charge from Royal Dublin’s Sean Ryan to qualify for this afternoon’s quarter-finals of the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.

The 20-year old Queens University student, winner of the Ulster Youths and Leinster Boys titles in 2011, won by two holes after a tough battle in southwest winds gusting up to 20mph.

Beaten by eventual champion Cormac Sharvin in the quarter-finals of the Irish Close last month, McKinstry was two up after four holes and three up with four to play but lost the 15th and 17th to pars to go to the 18th just one up.

“It was a great match and Sean really threw the kitchen sink at me coming down the stretch,” said pharmacy student McKinstry, who was runner up in this year’s British Univiersities Championship at Crail.

Eugene SmithEugene Smith drives on the 19th against Ben Best. Best won the match on the 21st

Ryan, who reached the quarter-finals last year, had a 10-foot birdie chance at the last with McKinstry just six feet away in three, but missed it and promptly shook hands.

McKinstry will play Rathmore’s Ben Best who beat Ardee’s Eugene Smith at the 21st.

Kilkenny’s Paul O’Hara edged out Warrenpoint’s Stephen Coulter by 2 and 1 and will take on Knock’s Nicky Grant, who beat Carton House’s Colin Cunningham by the same score.

Three up after 11 holes, Grant bogeyed the 14th and double bogeyed the 15th to see his lead reduced to one hole but took the 16th in par and closed out the match at the next.

In the bottom half of the draw, Castle’s Alex Gleeson had an impresssive 5 and 4 win over Shannon’s Ed Hickey to set up a quarter-final match with Jamie Rothwell or Bryan McSweeney.

The 19-year old UCD student, who made his debut for Connacht in the Senior Interprovicial Matches last week, took control his match when he holed a crucial putt for a half to remain two up after six and then won the seventh before holing a 10 footer for a win to go three up at the eighth.

“It’s my first year in men’s golf and it’s been a huge step up,” said Gleeson, who won the Connacht, Ulster and Irish Under 15s titles in 2009. “I knew it was going to be tough but the Interpros were a massive eye-opener. The standard is very high but I’m delighted to have won this morning.”

Gleeson will play Royal Dublin’s Bryan McSweeney, who held on for a one up won over the Curragh’s Jamie Rothwell.

Simon Ward beat Galgorm Castle’s Jamie Sutherland 2 and 1 to set up a quarter-final clash with year’s West and South of Ireland runner up Stephen Healy from Claremorris. Healy cruised to a 5 and 4 win over Stackstown’s Richard Bridges.

South of Ireland Amateur Open, Lahinch GC (Sponsored by Clare Coast Hotels)

Semi-finals (Wednesday 31 July)

(8.30) Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) v Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny)

(8.45) Alex Gleeson (Castle) v Simon Ward (Co Louth).

Quarter-finals (Tuesday 30 July)

Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) bt Ben Best (Rathmore) 23rd

Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny) bt Nicky Grant (Knock) 3/2,

Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Bryan McSweeney (Royal Dublin) 2/1.

Simon Ward (Co Louth) bt Stephen Healy Claremorris) 1h.


Fifth round (Tuesday, 30 July)

Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) bt Sean Ryan (Royal Dublin) 2 holes

Ben Best (Rathmore) bt Eugene Smith (Ardee) 21st

Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny) bt Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 2/1

Nicky Grant (Knock) bt Colin Cunningham (Carton House ) 2/1

Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Ed Hickey (Shannon) 5/4

Bryan McSweeney (Royal Dublin) bt Jamie Rothwell (Curragh) 1 hole

Simon Ward (Co Louth) bt Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle) 2/1

Stephen Healy Claremorris) bt Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 5/4.