Keith Egan proved that his brother Tom is not the only dangerous fighter in the family when he took out veteran Pat Murray with a brilliant birdie at the 23rd to reach the semi-finals of the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
The 22-year old Kildare native, just back from college in the Atlanta and playing out of Carton House, knocked out leading qualifier Paul McBride in the last 16 and then had to birdie the 18th just to take 2012 champion Murray into extra holes having been one up with three to play.
Murray won the 16th in birdie and the 17th in par but lost the 18th where Egan made a super chip and putt four from the apron.
They halved the 19th, 20th and 21st in par-birdie-par figures before Murray holed an 18 footer for birdie at the 22nd, the Klondyke, to put one foot in the last four once more.
But Egan had other ideas and he drained a 10 footer to halve in birdies and then snatched the match at the par-three 23rd, the Dell, where he hit a three-quarter eight-iron to three feet.
Murray’s 20 footer horshoed out and Egan calmly holed his birdie putt to clinch a semi-final showdown with Knock’s Colin Fairweather, who beat Laytown and Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty 3 and 1.
“You know if you can beat Pat Murray around Lahinch you are not going to be far off winning,” said Egan, whose brother Tom is Mixed Martial Arts specialist, currently in training in the US with UFC star Conor McGregor. “I came here with one intention only and that’s to win. I was quietly confident that I had a good chance and could go far and give anyone a game,”
After proving himself with a solid win over title favourite McBride, Egan was thrilled to sneak past the wily Murray, adding: "I am absolutely delighted, especially after being one down playing the last. I knew playing Pat that I had to be patient and make no mistakes and I didn't make a bogey until the 16th and I was one up going down 15, so it was very tough going.
"We knew it was going to take a quality shot to win the match and I was fortunate enough to hit a good shot on the last hole there.
"I was expecting Pat to hole that putt (on the 23rd) because he had been putting well all day but I'm glad to get away with the win.
"I knew I was due a putt and hadn't hoped anything until the 22nd. But I knew I had to hole it so I was more aggressive and maybe that's what made the difference."
A former member of the Curragh, Egan is a student at Clayton State University in Atlanta and home to test himself on the amateur scene this summer.
A former Irish Under 15 and the Irish Boys international, he made the last 16 in Lahinch last year but lost to Eanna Griffin.
"I love Lahinch," he said. "It's the best conditioned links I've ever played. Maybe it's because of that we are enjoying it so much that we are doing well."
As for his brother, he said: "His name is Tom Egan and he's a professional MMA fighter. He was training with Conor McGregor in the build up to his (recent UFC fight) He's 27. I don't mess with him but he doesn't mess with me either. He knows I'm stronger."
Murray had played sensational golf in the morning to beat the defending champion Stuart Bleakley 2 and 1.
But Egan would not go away, even when Murray hung tough and edged from one down after 15 to one up with one to play.
Murray said: "I was one down playing 12, birdied 12 to halve it. Halved 13 in birdies, 14 in pars, 15 in pars, won 16 with a birdie and had a birdie putt on 17. Par 18, par 19, birdie 20, par 21, birdie 22, and you saw what happened on 23, that putt was in the middle of the hole going down the hill but... Keith is a good player and he did what he had to do. I've been on the other side of those matches before and today was his turn."
Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan can become the first player to do the East of Ireland-South double since Jim Carvill in 2005 following his wins over Des Morgan and Gary Collins.
Grehan faces a tough semi-final with Limerick’s Mark MacGrath, a 19-year old Munster Boys interprovicial who learned his golf at Lahinch and played superbly to beat Niall Gorey from Palmerstown Stud 2 and 1 in the morning before getting to five under as he beat Royal Dublin’s Jeff Hopkins 3 and 1 in a high quality quarter-final.
"I was four up after 11," Grehan said of his match with Collins. "And Gary won 12 in par and birdied 13 and 14 to back to to one down. Luckily down the stretch I got up and down on 15 to go back to two up and made a solid par on 16 and Gary unfortunately bogey so 3 and 2 and I'm very happy with that."
Fairweather had a tremendous battle with Laytown and Bettystown talent Geraghty to win 3 and 1 and he was happy to make it to his second South of Ireland semi-final since 2012.
"I was two down early and I just said to myself, be patient and just play the course as if you were playing strokeplay," 24-year old Fairweather said. "I just managed to make a few pars and then momentum went my way again."
The match was all square as they played the 14th where Fairweather almost holed his six-iron, hitting his approach to six inches to go one up, took the 15th in par to go two ahead and closed out the match at the 17th after Geraghty had missed a good birdie chance on the previous green.
"It's good to know I can come back on matches," he added. "It's good for the confidence. The semis? I've been to a few last 16s and maybe I should be challenging more for these things. I practice really hard all the time and it's good to see it paying off."
It was a similar birdie-fest in the MacGrath-Jeff Hopkins match that ended in victory for the local boy.
"I was five under through 13 and we were all square," Hopkins said after his defeat. "There were a lot of birdies and really good golf and I had seven, he had eight.. When you are beat by the better man on the day you just take it on the chin. I had a good week, all in all, and on to the next one."
MacGrath has arguably been the performer of the week so far and his golf is clearly more than good enough to win the title.
The 19-year old has Lahinch blood in his veins as the grandson of a former club President and the son of the current Lady Captain.
Currently enjoying a year out — he did the US SATs to prepare for his imminent departure for the University of New Mexico — MacGrath wants to leave Ireland with some silverware.
A Lahinch regular since he was a baby, MacGrath said: "The South means more to me than any other Championship. I've grown up watching it and for me, it's the big one.
"Michael Collins in Mallow has been my coach for the last year and while it wasn't pretty for a while, it's starting to come together at the right time. My short game especially has been very good this week and it's helped me come through a few of my early matches.
"Today was the best I've played and against Jeff I'd say I was five under when it ended on the 17th. It's as good as I've played around here."
MacGrath birdied the first, second, fourth, eighth, 12th, 13th and 14th to take control of his match and while Grehan will be fancied to win their semi-final, the Limerick player is not fazed even though he will be playing with the burden of expectation of the home supporters.
"Stuart is a great player, he won the 'East' and he's playing well," he said. "But I don't think about who the pressure is on. You've just got to go out and enjoy it, try and shoot the numbers and see what happens."
South of Ireland 2015
LAHINCH GOLF CLUB (PAR 72)
FINAL - SUNDAY 26 JULY
SEMI-FINALS - SUNDAY 26 JULY
- 8.30 Keith Egan (Carton House) v Colin Fairweather (Knock)
- 8.45 Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) v Mark MacGrath (Limerick
QUARTER-FINALS - SATURDAY 25 JULY
- Keith Egan (Carton House) bt Pat Murray (Limerick) 23rd
- Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 3/1
- Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) bt Gary Collins (Rosslare) 3/2
- Mark MacGrath (Limerick) bt Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) 3/1
THIRD ROUND - SATURDAY 25 JULY
- Pat Murray (Limerick) bt Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) 2/1
- Keith Egan (Carton House) bt Paul McBride (The Island) 2/1
- Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) bt Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 3/2
- Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt John Conroy (Bray) 4/3
- Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) bt Des Morgan (New Forest) 3/2
- Gary Collins (Rosslare) bt Gary O'Flaherty (Cork) 5/3
- Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 4/3
- Mark MacGrath (Limerick) bt Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud) 2/1.