Ardee’s Eugene Smith crushed Simon Ward’s hopes of a second South of Ireland title when he beat the Co Louth man at the 25th to stagger his way into this morning’s semi-finals at Lahinch.
“I’m just knackered, absolutely knackered,” said the pencil thin 20-year old from Kingscourt in Co Cavan, who had to chip in for birdie at the 19th to beat Mullingar’s Dessie Morgan in his morning match before ending a marathon quarter-final with a six foot birdie putt at the seventh tie hole.
“Not many people would have beaten me this afternoon but Eugene played fantastic,” Ward tweeted later. “What a fantastic game we had.”
Fourth in the Irish Close at Royal Portrush and the reigning Munster Youths champion, Smith made his debut for Leinster in the Interpros last week but he faces a major obstacle in Limerick’s Pat Murray today with the Munster man bidding to end a nightmare run of seven semi-final defeats.
“It was a tough day,” Smith said after a quick shower. “I don’t think I was up against Dessie until I chipped in at the 19th. It was an unreal chip.”
His quarter-final with Ward - who birdied the 19th to beat pal Niall Gorey in a rain-lashed fifth round tie - was just as unbelievable.
Three down after three, he fought back to one down at the turn, lost the 10th but then birdied three in a row from the 11th to go one up before Ward squared the match at the 14th.
They pair didn’t halve their first hole until the 15th and while Smith was conceded the 17th and went to the last one up, Ward birdied from 20 feet to force extra time.
After going par-par-par-bogey-par-bogey over the first six holes, it all ended at the seventh when Smith hit a wedge to six feet and holed the putt after Ward had burned the edge with a 12 footer.
“Hopefully if I can play well, Pat will be left waiting for that semi-final win,” Smith said. “I feel I can handle anything that’s thrown at me.
“I beat my best friend Ciaran Molloy in the second round. If I can beat him, I can beat anyone. That was my toughest match.”
Murray suffered a major fright in his last 16 clash with Nenagh’s Shane Hogan when he lost the 16th and 17th to go one down but birdied the last to take the match up the 19th, where he edged over the line with a winning par.
It was a lot less stressful for the 41-year old in the afternoon as he defeated Lahinch’s Stephen Loftus 5 and 3 victory to reach his eighth semi-final.
“Winning the South would be the pinnacle of my career, bigger than the Close,” Murray said. “To have come close has been frustrating but you never lose the faith that one day it will be your turn.”
At the bottom of the draw, Knock’s Colin Fairweather - son of club professional Gordon - maintained his status as the dark horse for the title with two wins inside the distance.
Having seen off defending champion Stephen Walsh by 5 and 4 in the last 16, the 21-year old beat Royal Dublin’s Sean Ryan 3 and 2 and will face 20-year old Stephen Healy of Claremorris in the second semi-final.
Lightly-raced after being taken to the 18th just once so far, former Boys International Fairweather could prove to be a another headache for Claremorris’ Stephen Healy in the second semi-final.
Beaten by Harry Diamond in the West of Ireland final at Easter, Healy had to go to the 19th twice yesterday and looks likey to face another serious examation.
He looks like a winner, however, on the evidence of his performances yesterday.
In the fifth round he was two up with four to play against Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass before eventually being taken into extra holes. Then in the afternoon quarter-finals, he was two up against Ballyclare’s Ally Purdy only to lose the 10th, 12th and 13th to fall one hole behind.
The Mayo man squared the match at the 14th, however, and then a hit a sand wedge to two feet at the 19th to progress.
“It’s been pretty quiet for me since the West but I found something in my game last week and it’s been working for me,” said the 22-year old, who graduated with an accountancy degree from the University of Jacksonville last year.
South of Ireland Amateur Open (sponsored by Clare Coast Hotels), Lahinch GC.
Wednesday, 1st August
8:30 Eugene Smith (Ardee) v Pat Murray (Limerick)
8:45 Colin Fairweather (Knock) v Stephen Healy (Claremorris).
Final at 2pm
Tuesday, 31st July
Eugene Smith (Ardee) bt Simon Ward (Co. Louth) 25th
Pat Murray (Limerick) bt Stephen Loftus (Lahinch) 5/3
Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Sean Ryan (Royal Dublin) 3/2
Stephen Healy (Claremorris) bt Ally Purdy (Ballyclare) 19th.
Simon Ward (Co. Louth) bt Niall Gorey (Muskerry) 19th
Eugene Smith (Ardee) bt Des Morgan (Mullingar) 19th
Stephen Loftus (Lahinch) bt Simon Bryan (Delgany) 5/3
Pat Murray (Limerick) bt Shane Hogan (Nenagh) 19th
Sean Ryan (Royal Dublin) bt Shane McGlynn (Carton House) 1 hole
Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock) 5/4
Stephen Healy (Claremorris) bt Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) 19th
Ally Purdy (Ballyclare) bt Paul Cullen (Royal Tara) 4/3.