Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith is determined to complete a “wire-to-wire” win in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship and turn what looked like an average year into a memorable one at Ballyliffin.
The 22-year old won the “Close" in his first and only appearance at Seapoint in 2014 and he’s gunning for the chance to challenge for his second win from as many appearances when he faces Newlands’ Jake Whelan in the first of this morning’s semi-finals over the pristine Glashedy Links.
After beating Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty 3 and 2 and Delgany’s Marc Nolan 2 and 1, leading qualifier Galbraith said: “I like being favourite. And I’d like to go two from two in the Close. It would be quite special.
“It was an average season for me until we won the Home Internationals last week, so to win the Close here tomorrow would be the perfect way to finish off the year.”
He knows it won’t be easy against Whelan, who clinched the winning point for Maynooth University in last year’s AIG Irish Senior Cup final at Carton House and played well in the South of Ireland and Mullingar Scratch Cup recently.
“I got really tired there at one stage today but I will be alright for tomorrow,” said Galbraith, who captured his third successive Home Internationals with Ireland in Scotland last weekend.
“I played with Jake in the qualifying and I was impressed by him. He’s a very solid player and it will be tough to beat him. I’m looking forward to it and I don’t mind that I’m favourite. I like being favourite.
“And I’d like to go two from two [in the Close]. It would be quite special."
Straight hitting Whelan will be no pushover and after beating Kinsale’s Cathal Butler 3 and 2 and Mount Wolseley’s Mark Morrissey 2 and 1, he said: “It’ll be a different pressure tomorrow, I’ve never been in that situation before. But it’ll be a good experience, whatever happens.”
On the other side of the draw, Castle’s Alex Gleeson is dreaming of landing his maiden “major” after breaking the heart of Tramore’s Robin Dawson for the second year running to set up a semi-final meeting with 18-year old Peter Kerr, a former Boys international from Royal Portrush..
The 22-year old beat Dawson 3 and 2 in wet and windy conditions in the third round then eased to a 5 and 3 win over Knock’s Colin Fairweather, who had to come from behind and then go to the 20th to beat title holder Tiarnan McLarnon from Massereene.
“I’ve come close to winning a senior championship before but I am not really thinking about that,” said the Castle international, who lost to McLarnon in last year’s “Close” final at Tramore.
A former South of Ireland semi-finalist and multiple Irish Intervarsities winner, he added: “It would be nice to give myself a chance now and go out and play good golf against Peter in the morning.”
Gleeson showed he's more than just useful in the wind with his smooth five-iron to the second sailing 170 yards under a 25mph wind to finish stone dead and put him one up.
Kerr won last year’s Ulster Boys title as well as the Order of Merit for Under 18s and following a brace of impressive 5 and 3 wins over Belvoir Park’s Gareth Lappin and Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan, he clearly knows his way around the Glashedy Links.
“The formula is just hitting fairways and greens,” said Kerr, who heads to St Andrews University to study chemistry in 10 days’ time.
“I have definitely exceeded expectations so far this week, but I want to keep going as far as I can.”
Lenehan had a fine 2 and 1 win over St Andrews Links Trophy winner Conor O'Rourke in the morning wind and rain but he was never given an inch by Kerr, who was level par in testing afternoon conditions.
AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, Ballyliffin GC, Glashedy Links
Semi-finals, August 20
- 0800 Jake Whelan (Newlands) v John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead)
- 0810 Alex Gleeson (Castle) v Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush)
Final from 1pm
Quarter-finals, August 19
- Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) 2/1
- John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) bt Marc Nolan (Delgany) 2/1
- Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Colin Fairweather (Knock) 5/3
- Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) bt Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 5/3
Round Three, August 19
- Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) bt Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 2/1
- Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Cathal Butler (Kinsale) 3/2
- Marc Nolan (Delgany) bt Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 5/3
- John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) bt Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 3/2
- Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Robin Dawson (Tramore) 3/2
- Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 20th
- Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) bt Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 2/1
- Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) bt Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) 5/3