Brian Keogh at Rosses Point
Shane Lowry produced that little bit of magic that separates the good players from the true champions to take his place in the semi-finals of the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Rosses Point.
On a day when the gales relented and the sun beamed down on bare Ben Bulben, the 20-year-old Irish champion got out of jail in dramatic style, holing a 30-foot bomb on the last to force extra holes with the Castle’s Ryan Boal before winning with a par-four at the 20th.
Now based in Dublin, former Scrabo man Boal three-putted the second extra hole from a difficult position at the back of the fiendishly-slanted green, bringing back nightmarish memories of his loss to Rory McIlroy at the same place two years ago.
“It’s cruel,” said Boal, who took little solace from losing to the reigning Irish Close champion after a momentous back nine tussle. “I was having flashbacks there.”
Lowry now faces Galway veteran Eddie McCormack in the first of today's semi-finals, sure in the knowledge that when it comes to the crunch, he can come up with answers.
Two up with six to play yesterday afternoon, he was put under serious pressure when Boal won the 13th with a birdie and then levelled the match with a winning par at the 14th.
A brilliant lag putt from the swale behind the 15th green allowed Boal to remain all square and Lowry looked in toruble when he came up short of the 17th green and went one down with only the last to play.
With Boal just 12 feet from the stick at the 18th, Lowry fired a 90-yard wedge to 30 feet and drained the putt.
“I thought it had slipped away from me because Ryan was holing putt after putt,” said Lowry. “I couldn’t shrug him off. At the last I saw the line, just outside the right and the only thing I didn’t want to do was leave it short. When stuff like that happens it is almost meant to happen.”
Lowry will face Cavan man veteran Eddie McCormack with sports retailer Dessie Morgan taking on the The Curragh’s Paul O’Hanlon - another full time amateur - in the other semi-final.
Travelling salesman McCormack, 35, has been forced to take time off work to play this week but he hopes to go one better than his Irish Close final defeat to McIlroy in 2005.
A 4 and 3 winner over Mayo-man Mick Lavelle, McCormack said: “After losing to Rory I’ll know what to expect when it comes to crowds.
“I just got the job done today. I was doing it Faldo-style, hitting it in the middle of the greens and not acting the maggot.”
O’Hanlon, 22, also suffered at the hands of McIlroy in the final of the West in 2006. But came from behind twice yesterday, beating leading qualifier Andrew Hogan 4 and 3 and England’s Jonathan Hurst 2 and 1.
Hurst succeeded in ending local interest in the championship with a one-hole win over Co Sligo’s Gary McDermott in the morning - the local man losing the 17th to a par and then three-putting from just 12 feet for another bogey at the last when a two-putt par would have been enough to force extra holes.
“After losing in 2006, I kind of know what it is all about,” said Ireland international O’Hanlon. “Coming here I had no real expectations but as the tournament has gone on I have gotten better and better.”
His semi-final rival is Mullingar’s Dessie Morgan, who has been in six championship quarter-finals since he lost to Mark o’Sullivan in the last four of the 2003 Irish Close at Tramore,
A 3 and 2 winner over Michael Sinclair, Morgan has yet to win his first Irish cap. But he has his heart set on some silverware.
“Getting your name on a trophy is something that lasts forever,” Morgan said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Radisson SAS West of Ireland Championship, County Sligo GC
E McCormack (Galway) bt J Fox (Portmarnock) 1 hole;
M Lavelle (K Club) bt A McCloy (Ballymena) 4/3;
R Boal (Castle) bt J Monaghan (The Island) 3/2;
S Lowry (Esker Hills) bt B Cashman (Belvoir Park) 7/5;
J Hurst (Shawhill, UK) bt G McDermott (Co. Sligo) 1 hole;
P O’Hanlon (Curragh) bt A Hogan (Newlands) 4/3;
M Sinclair (Knock) bt P Cutler (Portstewart) 4/3;
D Morgan (Mullingar) bt D Downie (Sutton) 3/2.
E McCormack bt M Lavelle 4/3;
S Lowry bt R Boal 20th;
P O’Hanlon bt J Hurst 2/1;
D Morgan bt M Sinclair 3/2.
Semi-finals: (8.00) McCormack v Lowry; (8.15) O’Hanlon v Morgan.