Athenry schoolboy David Kitt could become the youngest winner of the AIG Irish Amateur Close since Rory McIlroy in 2006 after cruising into the semi-finals in impressive style on a day of shocks at Galway Golf Club.
The diminutive 17-year old (McIlroy was the youngest winner at 16 in 2005 and 17 when he retained it at the European Club) is still days away from starting his fifth-year studies at Holy Rosary College in Mountbellew,
But he played with the intelligence and tactical nous of a veteran yesterday, beating Belvoir Park’s Patrick Brennan by two holes and Cairndhu’s Ryan McKinstry 5 and 4.
Tramore’s Robin Dawson fell to another surprise package in Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan by one hole in the quarter-finals as fellow internationals Sean Flanagan and Caolan Rafferty also bowed out.
But Kitt is still standing, and he will have nothing to lose against former Boys international Marc Norton from Belvoir Park as Warrenpoint’s Jamie Fletcher takes on 25-year old Coughlan in the other semi-final.
“I knew if I played well I would have a good chance around here,” said Kitt, who was bogey free in the afternoon.
“It is not too long a golf course for me, and even though Ryan was hitting it 50 yards past me today, I knew I had a chance.”
Kitt knows Galway well, and he’s playing well too having won all his singles matches for Connacht in the Boys Interprovincials to cap a season that brought him second place in the Ulster Boys for the second year running and sixth place in the Leinster Boys.
“It's all a bonus,” said the bespectacled Kitt. “It is good to play in the championships, and I am playing well enough to win so I am just going to try and keep it going and see what happens.
“There's no special game plan - just hit the fairways and hit the greens and try to hole a few putts. Anyone who gets to this stage has to be a good player so I have nothing to lose.”
Kitt now faces 20-year old Norton, who is an Ulster senior Interprovincial and last year’s Leinster Youths champion.
He beat Mullingar’s Liam Grehan 3 and 1 before taking a huge step towards the title with a 2 and 1 win over the in-form Dundalk international Rafferty in the quarter-finals.
Rafferty was superb as he beat Galway’s Ronan Mullarney 3 and 2 in the morning but he came up against a brick wall in the afternoon as Norton was bogey free and three under par when they shook hands on the 17th green.
“My short game this week has been class,” said Norton, who knows Galway well having played it more than 15 times between Boys and Youths events.
“I’ve been getting everything to that holeable distance inside six feet, and the greens here are pure, so if you hit a good putt, it will probably go in.”
Fletcher believes he has the game and the experience to go all the way after beating Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley 3 and 1 before seeing off Co Sligo’s Cian Feeney 2 and 1 to reach the semi-finals.
A former Boys international, the 21-year old will face the unheralded Coughlan for a place in the final after the 25-year old from Castleknock ousted both Co Sligo’s Flanagan and Dawson on the 18th.
The Dubliner came back from one down with three to play to beat Flanagan by one hole, then dominated against Dawson in the afternoon despite a late wobble.
Needing two putts to close out the match on the 17th, he three-putted to open the door but chipped dead to secure a closing par at the last before Dawson’s slick 25 footer to force extra holes drifted wide of the target.
“It’s one person at a time, anyone can win a match,” said Coughlan, who is fully recovered from the stomach upset that affected him earlier in the week.
“Hopefully, I can keep it going. It’s been my best week to date. I was second in Connacht Stroke Play last year but that’s nothing compared to this.”
AIG Irish Amateur Close, Galway Golf Club
Semi-finals - Saturday, August 26
- (0800) Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) v Paul Coughlan (Castleknock)
- (0815) David Kitt (Athenry) v Marc Norton (Belvoir Park)
Quarter-finals - Friday, August 25
- Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) bt Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo) 2/1
- Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) bt Robin Dawson (Tramore) 1 hole
- David Kitt (Athenry) bt Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) 4/3
- Marc Norton (Belvoir Park) bt Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 2/1.
Round three - Friday, August 25
- Cian Feeney (Co. Sligo) bt Robbie Pierse (Grange) 21st
- Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) bt Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) 3/1
- Robin Dawson (Tramore) bt Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) 3/2
- Paul Coughlan (Castleknock) bt Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) 1 hole
- Ryan McKinstry (Cairndhu) bt Aaron Ryan (Thurles) 1 hole
- David Kitt (Athenry) bt Patrick Brennan (Belvoir Park) 2 holes
- Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 3/2
- Marc Norton (Belvoir Park) bt Liam Grehan (Mullingar) 3/1.