LAHINCH, Ireland (July 24, 2015) — Defending champion Stuart Bleakley insists that reputations will count for nothing when he tees it up against Lahinch legend Pat Murray in the last 16 of the South of Ireland Amateur Open on Saturday.
On a day when Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell sensationally crashed out in the first round, the 20-year old from Shandon Park beat Delgany’s Marc Nolan 3 and 2 and Royal Dublin’s Shaun Carter 2 and 1 to set up a major showdown with the 2012 champion today.
“It is just a name on the board to me,” 20-year old Bleakley said coldly of his clash with Murray. “I will go out and see what happens. I’m hitting it well.”
If all goes to plan for the Ulster raiders, Bleakley could face Colin Fairweather in tomorrow morning’s semi-finals after the Knock man, a beaten semi-finalist three years ago, edged out Portarlingthon’s Dan Murphy at the 19th and then rediscovered his swing in time to crush Carton House’s Gary McDermott 6 and 5.
Murray celebrated his 44th birthday with a brace of wins and the Limerick veteran, who ended years of heartbreak with his victory in the championship three years ago, feels good after overcoming Kirkistown Castle’s Jonathan Breen by one hole and Galgorm Castle’s Michael Reid 3 and 1 on another day of squally showers and strong, northwest winds at the pristine Co Clare links
“I can do it again,” Murray said. “If this wind keeps up it is not going to be blistering golf that’s going to win. Pars are your friend here."
The trouble for both Bleakley, Murray and Fairweather is the presence of leading qualifier Paul McBride from The Island in their half of the draw. And then there's Cian Geraghty and Eanna Griffin, who were lethal in their own way for the first day of mano a mano combat in the dunes.
McBride might only be a 19-year old, but he looks certain to get a full international cap and looks very much like the man to beat this week after Campbell fell at the first hurdle to the hot-putting of Youghal’s Conor Coyne, who would later lose to Palmerston Stud’s Niall Gorey at the 18th.
McBride was two down after seven in the morning but he showed his class on the back nine to beat Muskerry’s Shane Whooley with a birdie at the last before cruising to a 4 and 3 win over Warrenpoint’s William Hanna in the afternoon.
“I felt I was a bit quick this morning so I just slowed everything down,” said impressive Wake Forest freshman, who made birdies at the fourth and fifth followed by four in a row from the 11th to close out his match with Ulster interprovincial Hanna.
“I even slowed down walking, surprisingly for me, because I am usually very quick. And I think Lahinch suits me y game. You don’t actually have to be too straight off the tee but you have to be good with your irons and usually I am good with my irons.”
East of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan birdied the 17th and 18th to take Esker Hills' Alan Lowry, his close pal and Maynooth University team mate, to extra holes.
After halving the 19th in par, he hit a huge drive and reduced the 20th to a drive, an eight iron and two putts as Lowry failed to get up and down from greenside side.
Graham's reward is a last 16 showdown with New Forest’s Dessie Morgan, who beat Robbie Cannon 5 and 4 in the afternoon.
At the bottom fo the draw Masserreene’s talented Interprovincial Tiarnan McLarnon beat Cairndhu’s Neil McKinstry (4 and 3 and veteran Joe Lyons 6 and 5 to set up a third round match with Royal Dublin’s Jeff Hopkins, who is never an easy opponent.
Limerick’s Mark MacGrath will face Palmerston Stud’s Niall Gorey, who saw off Campbell’s vanquisher Coyne at the 18th.
MacGrath ended the odyssey of the young Portmarnock man Geoff Lenehan, who got out of jail spectacularly in the morning, hitting four iron almost stone dead at the last to take Limerick's Michael O'Kelly to extra holes and then beat him with a fine birdie four at the 20th.
Playing under later afternoon cloud, Lenehan could not emerge into the sunlight for a second time in a tight game with local boy MacGrath, who turned things around late in the day to clinch a 2 and 1 win and a showdown with Kildare based former Musketry man Niall Gorey, now playing out of the Palmerston Stud stable.
Despite struggling to an 80 in the first round of qualifying, Gorey qualified with ease and quietly slipped into the last 16 following wins over Simon Bryan and Coyne, the conqueror of Campbell.
The Warrenpoint international was bitterly disappointed to fall by 3 and 2 to a more clinical opponent but he hopes he has done enough this year to retain his place in the Irish team for next month’s Home Internationals.
“I am disappointed but happy I how I played for the two qualifying days,” said Campbell, whose next outing is in next week’s Challenge Tour event at Galgorm Castle. “Hopefully I have done enough to keep my place in the Irish team. It was good to be a part of that win last year.”