Fletcher aiming high as Mullarney ousts Gleeson on home turf
 Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) jumping to see the flag on the 8th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) jumping to see the flag on the 8th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Warrenpoint's Jamie Fletcher is looking forward to dipping his toes in at the deep end again after he beat clubmate Colm Campbell to reach the last 16 of the AIG Irish Amateur Close at wind-lashed Galway.

The 21-year old works as a swimming instructor in the mornings before dedicating his time to golf in the afternoon.

And after reaching the quarter-finals of the "Close" at Tramore two years ago, the former Irish Boys international is keen to join Campbell as a championship winner after battling through winds gusting up to 40 kmph.

"Winning a championship is the main goal," said Fletcher, who beat Jordan Hood 6 and 5 before seeing off Campbell 2 and 1 in the afternoon to set up a last 16 clash with Royal Dublin's Hugh Foley.

 Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) playing his second shot to the 8th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) playing his second shot to the 8th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

"I played really well this morning, four under and bogey free. So I am hitting it well."

Leading qualifier Peter Kerr from Royal Portrush fell by 2 and 1 to Co Sligo's Cian Feeney in the second round.

But the 20-year old from Rosses Point will have his work cut out against Grange's Robbie Pierse, who beat Dromoland's Brian Shally 8 and 7 before seeing off Mountrath's Niall Hearns 3 and 2

Robbie's spoon

A nephew of former Walker Cup player Arthur Pierse, the 24-year old is hoping to win some bragging rights among his relations after some near misses this year.

His older brother Jack lost in the final of the West before he finished second to Reece Black in the "East" in June.

 Cian Feeney (Co Sligo) playing his second shot to the 6th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Cian Feeney (Co Sligo) playing his second shot to the 6th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

"Until one of us wins one, second place is not worth much when Arthur’s in the family, to be honest," Pierse joked. 

"My godmother (Arthur’s sister, Grainne) has these antique spoons and she gave Jack one for coming second in the West and she gave me one for coming second in the East. 

"She used to give Arthur antiques when he won. She said we’re not getting any more until we win one!”

Bushfoot's Owen Crooks also faces a tough third round clash with Irish international Robin Dawson with the winner to face former North of Ireland champion Sean Flanagan from Co Sligo or Castleknock's Paul Coughlan.

 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) reacts to a near miss on the 11th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Ronan Mullarney (Galway) reacts to a near miss on the 11th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

In the bottom half of the draw, 21-year old Salthill man Ronan Mullarney can become the first home winner of the "Close" since Eddie Power triumphed in Tramore 30 years ago after he played superbly to beat defending champion Alex Gleeson 5 and 4.

"I was just one-over par!" Gleeson said, shaking his head.

Local knowledge was key for Galway hero Mullarney, who now faces the in-form Dundalk man Caolan Rafferty.

"I know where to go and where not to go," said Mullarney, who was an estimated four-under par in high winds and driving rain. "With some of the pins out there today, local knowledge could have been worth two holes. 

"There is something comforting about knowing where to go and where not to go."

Four up after eight holes, Mullarney saw Gleeson chip in for birdie at the ninth to reduce to deficit to just three holes.

But he then birdied the 10th from 10 feet to go four up again, then halved the 12th and 13th in birdies before closing out the match on the 14th. 

 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) playing to the 14th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Ronan Mullarney (Galway) playing to the 14th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

"I've had stars and NBs beside the Close in the calendar," confessed Mullarney, who lives ten minutes from the course. "I've been looking forward to this week.

"It would mean a lot to win this here, but there is a long way to go. I am looking forward to the next couple of days, and there is a lot of support out there."

Mullarney faces a massive test in today's third round when he takes on newly-minted international Rafferty, who came back from one down with four to play to beat Naas' Jonathan Yates by one hole.

“Straight home to bed,” Rafferty said after turning his match around with winning pars at the 16th and 18th. “It was an absolute slog out there today with that weather. There was no let up all afternoon.”

Asked about facing local favourite Mullarney in the last 16 today, he joked: “He has to be taken out by someone! At the start of the week, my game was a wee bit iffy, but it is starting to come around. A good night’s sleep tonight will get me ready for tomorrow.” 

Tramore’s Robin Dawson and Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan also won both their matches and the internationals could meet in today's quarter-finals if they can get past Bushfoot's Owen Crooks and Castleknock's Paul Coughlan respectively.

 Robin Dawson (Tramore) lining up his putt on the 5th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Robin Dawson (Tramore) lining up his putt on the 5th green during the third day of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

AIG Irish Close Championship, Galway Golf Club

Round three - Friday

  1. (0800) Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo) v Robbie Pierse (Grange)
  2. (0810) Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) v Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint)
  3. (0820) Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) v Robin Dawson (Tramore)
  4. (0830) Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) v Paul Coughlan (Castleknock)
  5. (0840) Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) v Aaron Ryan (Thurles)
  6. (0850) Patrick Brennan (Belvoir Park) v David Kitt (Athenry)
  7. (0900) Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) v Ronan Mullarney (Galway)
  8. (0910) Liam Grehan (Mullingar) v Marc Norton (Belvoir Park).

Round two - Thursday

  1. Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo) bt Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) 2/1
  2. Robbie Pierse (Grange) bt Niall Hearns (Mountrath) 3/2
  3. Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) bt Kyle McCarron (North West) 1 hole
  4. Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) bt Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 2/1  
  5. Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) bt Liam Nolan (Galway) 5/4
  6. Robin Dawson (Tramore) bt Mikey Burke (Galway) 3/2
  7. Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 3/2
  8. Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) bt Robert Moran (Castle) 1 hole
  9. Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) bt Tony Cleary (Woodstock) 1 hole
  10. Aaron Ryan (Thurles) bt James Fox (Portmarnock) 1 hole
  11. Patrick Brennan (Belvoir Park) bt Barry Anderson (Royal Dublin) 3/2
  12. David Kitt (Athenry) bt William Small (Tandragee) 19th
  13. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Jonathan Yates (Naas) 1 hole
  14. Ronan Mullarney (Galway) bt Alex Gleeson (Castle) 5/4
  15. Liam Grehan (Mullingar) bt Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) 4/3
  16. Marc Norton (Belvoir Park) bt Shane McDermott (Co Cavan) 3/2.

Round One - Thursday

  1. Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) bt Michael Shiel (Galway Bay) 19th
  2. Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo bt Robert Brazill (Naas) 2/1
  3. Robbie Pierse (Grange) bt Brian Shally (Dromoland) 8/7
  4. Niall Hearns (Mountrath) bt Jake Whelan (Newlands) 5/4
  5. Kyle McCarron (North West) bt David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 3/2
  6. Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) bt Michael O'Farrell (Galway) 6/5
  7. Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) bt Thomas Plunkett (Crover House) 19th
  8. Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) bt Jordon Hood (Galgorm Castle) 6/5
  9. Liam Nolan (Galway) bt Cameron Raymond (Newlands) 3/2
  10. Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) bt Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay) 3/2
  11. Mikey Burke (Galway) bt James McVicker (Knock) 4/3
  12. Robin Dawson (Tramore) bt Aodan Comerford (Galway) 1 hole
  13. Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) bt Michael Ryan Jnr(New Ross) 1 hole
  14. Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) bt Matthew Grehan (Tullamore) 3/2
  15. Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) bt Jamie Knipe (Royal Portrush) 3/1
  16. Robert Moran (Castle) bt Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) 3/2
  17. Tony Cleary (Woodstock) bt David Brady (Co Sligo) 4/3
  18. Ryan McKinstry(Cairndhu) bt Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 1 hole
  19. Aaron Ryan (Thurles) bt Harry Gillivan (Westport) 3/2
  20. James Fox (Portmarnock) by James Sugrue (Mallow) 1 hole
  21. Patrick Brennan (Belvoir Park) bt Allan Hill (Athenry) 20th
  22. Barry Anderson (Royal Dublin) bt Cathal Butler (Kinsale) 2/1
  23. David Kitt (Athenry) bt Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin) 3/1
  24. William Small (Tandragee) bt Thomas O’Connor (Athlone) 2/1
  25. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Anthony McDaid (Palmerstown Stud) 3/2
  26. Jonathan Yates (Naas) bt Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis) 4/3
  27. Ronan Mullarney (Galway) bt Brian Timlin (Galway) 5/3
  28. Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt TJ Ford (Co. Sligo) 2/1
  29. Liam Grehan (Mullingar) bt Jack Walsh (Castle) 20th
  30. Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) bt Stephen Healy (Royal Dublin) 1 hole
  31. Shane McDermott (Co Cavan) bt Joe Lyons (Galway) 3/1
  32. Marc Norton (Belvoir Park) bt Liam Power (Galway) 1 hole.