Favourites facing Close encounters at Ballyliffin
John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) playing his second shot to the 9th green during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club today (19/08/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) playing his second shot to the 9th green during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club today (19/08/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith is determined to complete a “wire-to-wire” win in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship and turn what looked like an average year into a memorable one at Ballyliffin.

The 22-year old won the “Close" in his first and only appearance at Seapoint in 2014 and he’s gunning for the chance to challenge for his second win from as many appearances when he faces Newlands’ Jake Whelan in the first of this morning’s semi-finals over the pristine Glashedy Links.

After beating Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty 3 and 2 and Delgany’s Marc Nolan 2 and 1, leading qualifier Galbraith said: “I like being favourite. And I’d like to go two from two in the Close. It would be quite special.

“It was an average season for me until we won the Home Internationals last week, so to win the Close here tomorrow would be the perfect way to finish off the year.”

He knows it won’t be easy against Whelan, who clinched the winning point for Maynooth University in last year’s AIG Irish Senior Cup final at Carton House and played well in the South of Ireland and Mullingar Scratch Cup recently.

Jake Whelan (Newlands) driving at the 9th tee during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin. (19/08/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

Jake Whelan (Newlands) driving at the 9th tee during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin. (19/08/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

“I got really tired there at one stage today but I will be alright for tomorrow,” said Galbraith, who captured his third successive Home Internationals with Ireland in Scotland last weekend.

“I played with Jake in the qualifying and I was impressed by him. He’s a very solid player and it will be tough to beat him. I’m looking forward to it and I don’t mind that I’m favourite. I like being favourite. 

“And I’d like to go two from two [in the Close]. It would be quite special."

Straight hitting Whelan will be no pushover and after beating Kinsale’s Cathal Butler 3 and 2 and Mount Wolseley’s Mark Morrissey 2 and 1, he said: “It’ll be a different pressure tomorrow, I’ve never been in that situation before. But it’ll be a good experience, whatever happens.”

On the other side of the draw, Castle’s Alex Gleeson is dreaming of landing his maiden “major” after breaking the heart of Tramore’s Robin Dawson for the second year running to set up a semi-final meeting with 18-year old Peter Kerr, a former Boys international from Royal Portrush..

Alex Gleeson (Castle) playing his second shot to the 10th green during his quarter final match with Colin Fairweather. Picture by Pat Cashman

Alex Gleeson (Castle) playing his second shot to the 10th green during his quarter final match with Colin Fairweather. Picture by Pat Cashman

Alex Gleeson (Castle) driving at the 11th tee during the third round matchplay at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin. Picture by Pat Cashman

Alex Gleeson (Castle) driving at the 11th tee during the third round matchplay at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin. Picture by Pat Cashman

The 22-year old beat Dawson 3 and 2 in wet and windy conditions in the third round then eased to a 5 and 3 win over Knock’s Colin Fairweather, who had to come from behind and then go to the 20th to beat title holder Tiarnan McLarnon from Massereene.

“I’ve come close to winning a senior championship before but I am not really thinking about that,” said the Castle international, who lost to McLarnon in last year’s “Close” final at Tramore. 

A former South of Ireland semi-finalist and multiple Irish Intervarsities winner, he added: “It would be nice to give myself a chance now and go out and play good golf against Peter in the morning.”

Gleeson showed he's more than just useful in the wind with his smooth five-iron to the second sailing 170 yards under a 25mph wind to finish stone dead and put him one up.

Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) driving at the 9th tee during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) driving at the 9th tee during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Kerr won last year’s Ulster Boys title as well as the Order of Merit for Under 18s and following a brace of impressive 5 and 3 wins over Belvoir Park’s Gareth Lappin and Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan, he clearly knows his way around the Glashedy Links.

“The formula is just hitting fairways and greens,” said Kerr, who heads to St Andrews University to study chemistry in 10 days’ time.

“I have definitely exceeded expectations so far this week, but I want to keep going as far as I can.”

Lenehan had a fine 2 and 1 win over St Andrews Links Trophy winner Conor O'Rourke in the morning wind and rain but he was never given an inch by Kerr, who was level par in testing afternoon conditions.

Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) explaining a ball movement to referee Dermot Logue and Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) on the 9th green during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club. There was no penalty as the wind, not the player, caused the ball to move. Picture by Pat Cashman

Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) explaining a ball movement to referee Dermot Logue and Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) on the 9th green during his quarter final match at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club. There was no penalty as the wind, not the player, caused the ball to move. Picture by Pat Cashman

Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) assess the situation on the 11th tee during his third round mach with Conor O'Rourke at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship. Picture by Pat Cashman

Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) assess the situation on the 11th tee during his third round mach with Conor O'Rourke at the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship. Picture by Pat Cashman

AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, Ballyliffin GC, Glashedy Links

Semi-finals, August 20

  1. 0800 Jake Whelan (Newlands) v John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead)
  2. 0810 Alex Gleeson (Castle) v Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush)

Final from 1pm

Quarter-finals, August 19

  1. Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) 2/1
  2. John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) bt Marc Nolan (Delgany) 2/1
  3. Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Colin Fairweather (Knock) 5/3
  4. Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) bt Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 5/3

Round Three, August 19

  1. Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) bt Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 2/1
  2. Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Cathal Butler (Kinsale) 3/2
  3. Marc Nolan (Delgany) bt Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 5/3
  4. John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) bt Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 3/2 
  5. Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Robin Dawson (Tramore) 3/2
  6. Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 20th
  7. Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) bt Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 2/1
  8. Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) bt Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) 5/3
Course architect Pat Ruddy, who designed the Glashedy Links with the late Tom Craddock, watching the action in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship. Picture by Pat Cashman

Course architect Pat Ruddy, who designed the Glashedy Links with the late Tom Craddock, watching the action in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship. Picture by Pat Cashman