Mount Wolseley's Gavin Moynihan rode a wave of confidence and a hot putter into the quarter-finals of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 in Spain.
As top seed Charlie Ford saw off Derry's Ruaidhri McGee in the last 16, two-time Walker Cup player Moynihan beat Scott Fernandez 3 and 1 in the first round before seeing off Spain's Pablo Martin at the fourth extra hole in the afternoon.
The pair could not be separated after nine holes, and after three further play-off holes, Moynihan and Benavides faced off on the par-four fourth.
Moynihan, who became the youngest Irish Amateur champion in history when he won as a 17-year-old in 2012, hit a stunning second shot to within one foot which he confidently tapped in to guarantee his place in the Sunday fixtures.
“It was an incredible match,” said Moynihan, who now faces 20-year-old Swedish sensation Marcus Kinhult.
“I found myself one down after one as Pablo hit an incredible driver off the deck to birdie the first.
“We were trading blows right throughout, and we both holed some amazing putts – I holed a great 20-footer on the sixth and then he holed a 45-footer on the next.
“I missed a putt to win on the ninth and I was slightly mad after that but I just regrouped ahead of the play-off.
“It was really close until the fourth when I hit a wedge to about six or seven inches. I was just really delighted to get the win.
“Since Thursday I have been striking the ball as well as I ever have. I won recently on the EuroPro Tour, and I feel as though I have been playing really well since February. Hopefully, I’ll be up there again tomorrow."
Ford cruised into the weekend after opening rounds of 63 and 67 took him to the top of the leaderboard, but with the top 32 players making it to the match play stage of the innovative event, it was back to square one.
First out this morning against fellow countryman Sam Hutsby, the 32-year-old had to muster something special to prevent an early exit.
After being all square after eight holes, it was all to play for in the nine-hole contest, with Ford making an eagle at the last to finish 1up against Hutsby.
Ford, who became a European Challenge Tour champion after triumphing at the Turkish Airlines Challenge in 2011, found the going easier in his last 16 tie against McGee (who had beaten David Law one up in round won), winning 2 and 1.
“I felt very good coming into today as the top seed,” Ford said. “But when you are starting afresh each day you try not to get carried away as you know it’s a clean slate the following day.
“I know Sam really well from amateur and junior golf and we had an unbelievable match. I always felt pretty confident in myself with how I’m playing, so it was good to get through that and back it up with another good performance this afternoon.
“With Sam it was a really up and down match. I started with an eagle and finished with an eagle, and we traded birdies quite a lot all the way round.
“It really could have gone either way on the last. I hit a four iron to about five feet, and after holing that I was extremely relieved to get in with a win this morning.
“This afternoon with Ruaidhri we had a good game – I managed to get my nose in front early and didn’t make many mistakes after that.
“It has been ages since I’ve had to play competitive match play – but I’ve really enjoyed it so far this weekend. It’s over so quickly and everyone here is so good that you can’t give any holes away.”
Joining Ford in the last eight are his fellow countrymen Aaron Rai, Tom Murray and Matthew Baldwin, Finland’s Oliver Lindell and France’s Robin Sciot-Siegrist
Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9, La Cala Resort
- 8.00 Charlie Ford v Matthew Baldwin
- 8.10 Marcus Kinhult v Gavin Moynihan
- 8.20 Tom Murray v Oliver Lindell
- 8.30 Aaron Rai v Robin Sciot-Siegrist
Semis at 11.00 and 11.10.