Pádraig Harrington likes to repeat a well-worn phrase used by his coach Bob Torrance to explain the difference between good players and great players.
“Good players play great when the feeling comes upon them but great players play good when they have to.”
Time will tell if Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy goes on to become a great player. But with the Walker Cup selectors eagerly watching his progress this year, the 17-year old produced some great golf on demand to clinch his place in the last 16 of the West of Ireland Championship.
One down to his close friend and fellow Boys international Gavin Moynihan of The Island with three holes to play, McElroy showed his class when he hit a five-iron to five feet at the 16th and calmly rolled home the birdie putt to level the match before holing a 20 footer for birdie from the back of the 17th to go one up.
“It was a brilliant match,” McElroy said after closing out the match with a solid four at the last. “I didn’t play that great on the front nine and Gavin was playing really well. I went one down after 15 and just found some birdies when I really needed them.”
It was a good day all round for the Ulster contingent with leading qualifier Paul Cutler from Portstewart cruising into the third round following 3 and 2 wins over former North of Ireland champion Wayne Telford and Headford’s Rory McNamara.
Irish Amateur champion Alan Dunbar also progressed with ease with respective two hole wins over Lurgan’s David Sutton and Galgorm Castle’s Benjamin Churchill.
But perhaps the happiest Ulsterman remaining in the premises was Belvoir Park’s Harry Diamond, who’s three week trip to the United States with best friend Rory McIlroy worked wonders for his game.
The 26-year old confessed that he lost hundreds of dollars testing his game against McIlroy and world stars such as Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson and Camilo Villegas as they practiced at West Palm Beach in Florida in the run up to the Masters.
As a result his game was razor sharp yesterday as he defeated multiple championship winner Darren Crowe from Dunmurry by 4 and 3 and then came back from three down with eight to play to beat Lee Valley’s Sean Barry by one hole, setting up a last-16 meeting with Limerick’s Pat Murray.
“Playing with players of that calibre in Florida was a real eye-opener,” Diamond said. “It made me see how good you need to be. I had a brilliant time with Rory at Old Palm and the Bears Club before the Masters and I certainly lost a few bucks.
“Rory was giving me six shots and then shooting 63’s and 64’s. I was shooting level par and still getting beat.”
Diamond share a house with McIlroy two other friends at Augusta and while he confessed that he was bitterly disappointed that his friend failed to win the green jacket when he collapsed to a closing 80 after leading by four strokes with a round to play, he’s tipping his pal to go on and win a major before long.
“We had a great couple of weeks over there,” he said. “Even on Sunday night in Augusta he was great. I think we were more disappointed than he was to be honest. He knows he’s got plenty more chances to win majors, including another three this year.”
Three members of the host club made it into the last 16 with 29-year old bank official Gary McDermott coming back from two down with five to play beat Ballyclare’s Simon McConnell by one hole.
International Barry Anderson crushed Edenderry’s Daniel Coyle 8 and 7 to set up a clash with Muskerry’s David O’Donovan with the victor set to face the winner of the eagerly anticipated match between Rosses Point’s Steffan O’Hara and leading qualifier Cutler.
West of Ireland Championship, Co Sligo GC
S McConnell (Ballyclare) bt D Sweeney (Westmanstown) 2/1;
G McDermott (Co Sligo) bt C Boggan (Co Meath) 2/1;
K Lovelock (Hindhead, UK) bt J Lyons (Birr) 20th;
J Greene (Carlow) bt Luke Lennox (Moyola Park) 1 hole;
R Cannon (L’town & B’town) bt K Shannon (Greenore) 2/1;
P Murray (Limerick) bt A Kelly (Charleville) 4/3;
H Diamond (Belvoir Park) bt D Crowe (Dunmurry) 4/3;
S Barry (Lee Valley) bt P Dunne (Greystones) 2/1;
D Coyle (Co Louth) bt D King (Tramore) 1 hole;
B Anderson (Co Sligo) bt E Haugh (Castletroy);
D O’Donovan (Muskerry) v C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 4/3;
R Whitson (Mourne) bt B Fennelly (Royal Dublin/NUIM) 4/3;
J Hopkins (Skerries) bt R Walsh (Kilkenny) 19th;
S O’Hara (Co Sligo) bt S Miskelly (Knock) 2 holes;
R McNamara (Headford) bt S Morrison (City of Derry) 19th;
P Cutler (Portstewart) bt W Telford (Rathmore) 3/2;
D McElroy (Ballymena) bt B Ronan (Co Louth) 2/1;
G Moynihan (The Island) bt E Stack (Ballybunion) 1 hole;
A Kearney (Castlerock) bt G Dunne (Seapoint) 2 holes;
N Gorey (Muskerry) bt P O’Leary (Lucan) 1 hole;
I Brennan (Greenore) bt C Doran (Banbridge) 1 hole;
A Hogan (Newlands) bt S Brady (Co Sligo/NUIM) 2/1;
C Martin (Kilkenny) bt K McDonagh (Athlone/NUIM) 4/3;
D Kelleher (Portmarnock) bt J Dillon (Headfort) 19th;
A Dunbar (Rathmore) bt D Sutton (Lurgan) 2 holes;
B Churchill (Galgorm Castle) bt G Carew (Edenderry) 2 holes;
J Hume (Rathsallagh) bt E Arthurs (Forrest Little) 4/3;
D Murphy (Portarlington) bt J Monaghan (Royal Dublin) 3/2;
C Selfridge (Moyola Park) bt E McCormack (Galway) 2/1;
C Fairweather (Knock) bt S Cannon (Loughrea) 3/1;
R O’Donovan (Lucan) bt D Downie (Sutton) 2/1;
S Walsh (Baltinglass/UCD) bt W Hanna (Kilkeel) 1 hole.
McDermott bt McConnell 1 hole;
Lovelock bt Greene 3/2;
Murray bt Cannon 2/1
Diamond bt Barry 1 hole;
Anderson bt Coyle 8/7;
O’Donovan bt Whitson 3/2;
O’Hara bt Hopkins 4/3;
Cutler bt McNamara 3/2
McElroy bt Moynihan 1 hole;
Gorey bt Kearney 4/3;
Hogan bt Brennan 19th;
Martin bt Kelleher 6/5;
Dunbar bt Churchill 2 holes;
Hume bt Murphy 4/3;
Fairweather bt Slefridge 3/1;
Walsh bt O’Donovan 2/1.
Third round tee-times
(8.0) G McDermott (Co Sligo) v K Lovelock (Hindhead, UK);
(8.10) P Murray (Limerick) v H Diamond (Belvoir Park);
(8.20) B Anderson (Co Sligo) v D O’Donovan (Muskerry);
(8.30) S O’Hara (Co Sligo) v P Cutler (Portstewart)
(8.40) D McElroy (Ballymena) v N Gorey (Muskerry);
(8.50) A Hogan (Newlands) v C Martin (Kilkenny);
(9.00) A Dunbar (Rathmore) v J Hume (Rathsallagh)
(9.10) C Fairweather (Knock) v S Walsh (Baltinglass/UCD).
Quarter-finals from 1.30pm at 15 minute intervals