The corinthian spirit is clearly very much alive in Irish amateur golf after two accountants, a part-time post office worker and a dairy farmer battled their way in today’s semi-finals of the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at County Sligo.
Rosses Point was at its picture-postcard best on a sun-splashed day and with only a mild north wind to trouble the players, the 16 survivors were whittled down to four men who are bidding to make their own little bit of history today.
Sligo hopes are now pinned on Royal Dublin's Barry Anderson, a 26-year old accountant who was a member of the home club until this year.
Born and bred in Rosses Point, Anderson can become the first “home" winner of the West since Cecil Ewing in 1950 and after overcoming Co Sligo's David Brady by one hole in a fratricidal quarter-final, he believes that working full time has eased the pressure and he can now go on lift the trophy every Sligo man dreams of winning.
"I lost on the 18th to Rory McNamara in the quarters in 2010 and on the 19th to Paul Cutler when he won in 2011," said Anderson, who was pegged back to all square after Brady's gutsy par on the 17th only to see his opponent overshoot the 18th and fail to get up and down.
"Now that I am no longer playing full-time golf, I have never been as a relaxed coming into the West and don't get upset by the bad shots as I did before.
"Staying relaxed has worked so far and while it's only natural to think about winning, there are only four of us left now and someone had to win it. It might as well be me."
Anderson faces a tough semi-final match against 21-year old Newlands talent Jake Whelan, who showed his pedigree by reaching the semi-finals of the Irish Amateur Close at Ballyliffin last year.
A big hitter with silent assassin’s demeanour, the tall and willowy Dubliner beat Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley 2 and 1 in the morning before crushing the dream of Rosses Point native Gary McDermott 4 and 2 in the afternoon.
Having worked nights in the post office over the winter to fund his summer season, the Dubliner's win in last year's Youths Order of Merit was a testament to his consistency.
In the top half of the draw, 20-year old dairy farmer William Small birdied the 18th from two feet to beat Naas’ Robert Brazill by one hole and set up a semi-final clash with Portmarnock’s Jack Pierse.
A 26-year old accountant with a straight hitting style and a silken putting touch, Pierse has the talent to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Arthur Pierse, a two-time West of Ireland winner, as he showed when winning the World Club Championship for Portmarnock alongside Geoff Lenehan last year.
Like Anderson, he is a part-time golfer whose relaxed attitude to the game eases the pressure on his shoulders and his relentless ball-striking and uncanny putting will be a handful for Small, who is playing in his first West of Ireland Championship.
“Some of the guys who play full time are under a lot of pressure to hit good shots all the time but if I hit a bad one, it doesn’t upset me too much because I am not out there every day whacking balls in the cold,” Pierse said with his trademark grin after making one birdie and one bogey in a 2 and 1 win over Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty in the afternoon.
"My uncle Arthur's name is on the trophy twice so it's a big name to live up to — but I will give it a go."
With his brother Robbie on the bag, Pierse is determined to enjoy his week in Sligo, no matter how the golf goes.
"I am just relaxed and we will have a beer or two tonight, sleep well and go again tomorrow," he said.
As for Small, the flame-haired Ulsterman won a nip and tuck battle with Brazill with a clutch birdie at the 18th and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Stuart Paul, who won the West playing out of Tandragee in 2002.
Happy to have an early start to play Pierse and not milk cows, he smiled and said: “My dad James is here with me so my uncle is looking after the cows this week. It would be class to win this. I’m playing well so let's just see where it goes.”
West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, County Sligo GC.
Semi-finals — Tuesday, April 18
- (08:00) William Small (Tandragee) v Jack Pierse (Portmarnock)
- (08:15) Jake Whelan (Newlands) v Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin).
Final at 13:30.
- William Small (Tandragee) bt Robert Brazill (Naas) 1 hole;
- Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 2/1;
- Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Gary McDermott (Carton House) 4/2
- Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt David Brady (Co. Sligo) 1 Hole.
Third Round - Monday, April 17
- Robert Brazill (Naas) bt Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 2 holes;
- William Small (Tandragee) bt David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) 5/4;
- Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) beat Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 2 holes;
- Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt Stephen Healy (The Royal Dublin) 1 hole;
- Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin) 2/1;
- Gary McDermott (Carton House) bt Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) 3/2;
- Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) 1 hole;
- David Brady (Co. Sligo) bt Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) 6/4.