From Brian Keogh at Rosses Point
Five Irish internationals were blown off course as title favourites Shane Lowry and Jonathan Hurst took contrasting routes into the last 16 of the Radisson SAS West of Ireland championship at Rosses Point.
While Lowry holed a 35-footer on the 17th on his way to a tense, one-hole win over Knock’s Nicky Grant, English raider Hurst needed just 25 holes to see off Claremorris’ Pat Killeen and Cork’s Alan Harrington on a day when the gale force winds relented.
Still, the big names fell in numbers under old Ben Bulben’s glare with Connor Doran and Simon Ward exiting in the morning 'calm' before defending champion Joe Lyons, Newlands’ Cian Cutler and Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney followed in the course of a blustery afternoon.
Kearney was forced to retire with a shoulder injury after just 11 holes of his second round clash with Galway’s Eddie McCormack, losing four holes on the spin after exacerbating a niggling injury on the third.
But while Lyons confessed that he simply didn’t putt well enough as he lost 3 and 2 to the combative Ulsterman Ryan Boal in the second round, the putter was a major ally for Lowry and Hurst, who are seeded to meet in tomorrow afternoon’s decider.
Irish Close champion Lowry looks to have the easier route to the final after following a clear-cut 4 and 3 win over County Sligo’s Michael Durcan with a knee-trembling win over Grant in the afternoon.
The 20-year-old Offaly native showed he hasn’t lost the matchplay guile that gave him his maiden championship win at Cork last year when he holed an outrageous 35-foot birdie putt across the 17th green to go one up against the hapless Grant, who lipped out with a six-footer at the 18th to force sudden-death.
“There are always going to be matches like this if you are going to win championships,” said a relieved Lowry. “I had a couple of them last year in the Close in Cork. I suppose I am one of the favourites now because a lot of big names went out today.”
Highly-fancied Hurst played just 25 holes yesterday as he crushed Killeen 7 and 5 and then dispatched Harrington by 7 and 6 in the afternoon, hitting every green in regulation and missing little inside 10 feet.
Hurst was unhappy with how he reacted to the pressure from the local crowd last year, when he lost to Tommy McGowan in the quarter-finals.
But he faces an even bigger test today when he faces County Sligo’s Gary McDermott in a third round clash that is certain to draw a massive local following.
The 26-year-old Rosses Point native is so determined to give his all this year that he gave up alcohol in January and has practised hard before and after his day job with AIB in Sligo to give himself every chance of becoming the first County Sligo member to win since Cecil Ewing in 1950.
“For a Rosses Point man the ‘West’ is the biggest championship of all,” said McDermott, who was three up with three to play against England’s Ben Jones before a shank onto the beach at the 16th delayed a 2 and 1 victory. “If you were to win a championship, it is the one you would choose to win.
“I got to the last 16 the first year I played but I know what to expect a wee bit now. Before you would be a bit fearful and possibly giving too much respect to the bigger players. But you realise that if you dig your heels in and play your own game there is no-one you can’t beat.”
Mullingar's Dessie Morgan came back from three down with three to play to beat Rory Leonard in near darkness with a par four at the 19th.
But Michael Sinclair and JP Hughes agreed to resume on the 20th this morning when they were still inseparable at nightfall.
Radisson SAS West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, Co Sligo GC
J Fox (Portmarnock) bt G Hall (Edenderry) 2 holes;
R McCarthy (The Island) bt C Doran (Banbridge) 2/1;
E McCormack (Galway) bt G McGloin (Bundoran) 7/6;
N Kearney (Royal Dublin) bt RJ Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown) 4/3;
M Lavelle (K Club) bt G Lawlor (City west) 7/6;
I Winstanley (Formby, UK) bt E Arthurs (Forrest Little) 1 hole;
A McCloy (Ballymena) bt D O’Donovan (Muskerry) 2/1;
C Cunningham (Carton House) bt S Ward (Co Louth) 1 hole.
J Monaghan (The Island) bt R Maher (Nenagh) 7/6;
N Gorey (Lee Valley) bt J Senior (Heysham, UK) 5/4;
R Boal (Castle) bt P Buckley (Kanturk) 1 hole;
J Lyons (Galway) bt B Walton (The Island) 1 hole;
B Cashman (Belvoir Park) bt M Hemphill (Portstewart) 2/1;
A McCormick (Scrabo) bt D Crowe (Dunmurry) 1 hole;
N Grant (Knock) bt S Webster (Castle) 3/2;
S Lowry (Esker Hills) bt M Durcan (Co. Sligo) 4/3.
J Hurst (Shawhill, UK) bt P Killeen (Claremorris) 7/5;
A Harrington (Cork) bt R Durnin (Laytown & Bettystown) 1 hole;
G McDermott (Co. Sligo) bt W McCully (Donaghadee) 3/2;
B Jones (Cuddington, UK) bt T Neenan (Lahinch) 4/3;
A Hogan (Newlands) bt H Diamond (Holywood) 2/1;
D Finn (Mallow) bt David Scully (Galway) 2/1;
P O’Hanlon (Curragh) bt B Fowles (Wentworth, UK) 2/1;
B Keenan (The Heath) bt A McAllister (The International, USA) 2/1.
P Cutler (Portstewart) bt E O’Sullivan (The Island) 5/4
D Sutton (Lockerbie, UK) bt Kelan McDonagh (Athlone) 2/1;
M Sinclair (Knock) bt D Lernihan (Castle) 2/1;
JP Hughes (Douglas) bt S Crowe (Dunmurry) 2/1;
C Curley (Newlands) bt P Purdy (Shandon Park) 1 hole;
D Downie (Sutton) bt A Harty (West Waterford) 5/3;
R Leonard (Banbridge) bt C O’Connor (Athlone) 1 hole;
D Morgan (Mullingar) bt K Stack (Dungarvan/UCC) 4/3.
J Fox bt R McCarthy 4/3;
E McCormack bt N Kearney retired injured;
M Lavelle bt I Winstanley 3/2;
A McCloy bt C Cunningham 1 hole;
J Monaghan bt N Gorey 1 hole;
R Boal bt J Lyons 3/2;
B Cashman bt A McCormick 2/1;
S Lowry bt N Grant 1 hole;
J Hurst bt A Harrington 7/6;
G McDermott bt B Jones 2/1;
A Hogan bt D Finn 6/5;
P O’Hanlon bt B Keenan 5/4;
P Cutler bt D Sutton 1 hole;
M Sinclair v JP Hughes all square after 19 (7.50 am restart)
D Downie bt C Curley 6/4;
D Morgan bt R Leonard 19th.
Third round (From 8.0)
Fox v McCormack; Lavelle v McCloy; Monaghan v Boal; Cashman v Lowry; Hurst v McDermott; Hogan v O'Hanlon; Cutler v Sinclair or Hughes; Downie v Morgan.