Pat Murray has seen it all at Lahinch over the years but after reaching his seventh semi-final thanks to two sterling displays, he’ll be forgiven for thinking he’s been caught in a time warp when he takes on the unheralded Carlow man John Greene at the classic Clare links this morning.
Dressed in short shorts and with nothing more than a polo shirt to keep out the chilly west wind, 24-year old Greene sports the kind of wild hairstyle that makes Rory McIlroy look like something from bootcamp.
“You might has well pretend you’re in Florida,” said Greene with a grin. “I think I’m a blast from the past, like something from the 70s.”
He might not look the part, but Greene has the game to add to 39-year old Murray’s tales of woe in what will go down as one of the most open editions of the ‘South’ in recent memory.
The plus one handicapper - winner of this year’s Waterford Scratch Cup and a golf scholarship student at UCD - is a dangerous animal in that he’s got nothing to lose.
He broke a couple of teenage hearts yesterday as he followed a 2 and 1 win over 16-year old Milltown star Liam Harnett (16) with a miraculous comeback victory against the talented Skerries starlet Sam Devey.
Two down with three to play against Devey, Greene finished birdie-par-birdie to win by one hole and confessed that he’s amazed he’s come so far.
“I don’t know how I am still here to be honest,” said Greene, who got some help in his quarter-final win as Devey hit his second shot out of bounds. “I can’t believe Sam’s not a boys international or even a boys interpro. He’s easily good enough but I just broke his heart today.”
One of four amateurs invited to play in this week’s 3 Irish Open in Killarney, Murray hopes to make the 80-mile drive tonight with some extra luggage in the boot of his car.
Six times he has driven away from Lahinch a beaten semi-finalist but having broken his championship duck by claiming last year’s Irish Close title at Enniscrone, the affable 39-year old international believes his luck is about to change.
“I’ve come up against it in six semis,” said Murray, who saw off West Waterford’s Mark Shanahan by two holes in the morning before ending the dreams of Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan with an impressive 6 and 4 quarter-final victory. “It just wasn’t my time but I’m feeling good about the game this year.
“The South means a lot to me because it was the first championship I ever played in and it’s the one where I’ve gone furthest the most times. It would be nice to be going down to Killarney for the Irish Open with the trophy in the boot. I’m playing well and if I can keep it going, I’d be pretty confident.”
If Murray makes it to his first final at the classic Co Clare links, he’ll face the winner of the clash between Athlone’s Kelan McDonagh, the 20-year old Ireland international, and 27-year old Munster interprovincial Cian Daly of Castletroy.
McDonagh has had a quiet season since he earned his first senior cap at last year’s Home Internationals but he has slowly gained in confidence thanks to hard work with his coach Brendan McDaid in recent weeks.
A four and three winner over Old Conna’s Mark Sheridan in the morning, he then eliminated the joint title favourite and Irish Close champion Dara Lernihan by one hole in the afternoon to make it to his first senior final.
“I played half-decent at the North and pretty solid in the interpros and just came here with a bit of confidence and took it one match at a time,” said McDonagh. “I’ll just try to keep winning.”
As for Daly, the Limerick man is simply happy to have made it this far, conceding: “I got to the fourth round two years ago so everything is a bonus.”
South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, Lahinch GC
K McDonagh (Athlone/NUIM) bt M Sheridan (Old Conna) 4/3;
D Lernihan (Castle) bt R Whitson (Mourne) 3/2;
B Casey (Headfort) bt J Monaghan (The Island) 19th;
C Daly (Castletroy) bt P O’Hara (Kilkenny) 4/3;
S Devey (Skerries) bt S McGlynn (South County) 2/1;
J Greene (Carlow) bt L Harnett (Milltown) 2/1;
T Neenan (Lahinch) bt R O’Donovan (Lucan) 1 hole;
P Murray (Limerick) bt M Shanahan (West Waterford) 2 holes
McDonagh bt Lernihan 1 hole;
Daly bt Casey 1 hole;
Greene bt Devey 1 hole;
Murray bt Neenan 6/4.
(8.30) K McDonagh v C Daly;
(8.40) J Greene v P Murray.