Colm Campbell (Irish Golf Desk)
A long week at Lahinch Golf Club will come to a close on Sunday in what is forecast to be a blustery, rainy day at the revered golf course.
On one side of the bracket, the proper seeds have found their way to the semi-final. The two-seed Jack Hearn will face off against the three-seed Peter O'Keeffe.
In his morning match, Hearn needed a birdie on the 18th hole to beat Graham Donohoe 1 up. The afternoon against Conor Byrne was a bit less stressful; he grabbed a 3-up lead after six holes and cruised to a 3&2 victory.
O'Keeffe, who was runner-up in 2022, had a short day at the office. He defeated Joe O'Neill 5&4 and then closed out Gerard Dunne on the 16th green with a 3&2 victory in the quarterfinals.
"I think I was two under this morning and maybe something similar in the afternoon,h OfKeeffe said to Irish Golf Desk. gThe game is in great shape, Ifm driving the ball really well, putting well too so everything across the board is great."
The opposite side of the bracket is proof that match play is a wild beast. Paul Coughlan, the 56 seed will take on the 29 seed, Colm Campbell
Campbell will sleep well tonight as he needed 38 total holes on Saturday. He beat his Round of 16 opponent, Marc Boucher, 1 up. A dramatic 20-hole match against Ryan Griffin earned him a spot in the semi-final on Sunday morning.
It seemed like Campbell had let his chance slip through his fingers on the first extra hole.
gThen I had a super six iron into the first playoff hole to about four feet, and Ryan makes a great par save from just off the green, then I miss and Ifm thinking to myself have I blown it," he said.
But a great four-iron shot on the very next hole secured the victory and a date with Paul Coughlan.
Coughlan had the most dominant day on the course. He won his matches 6&4 over Matthew Giles and then 5&4 over David Shiel.
"This is one of my favorite golf courses; you just have to step up and hit some good shots,h said Coughlan.
A hot putter is a big reason why Coughlan has made it this far, in his mind.
gMy putting has been good this week after switching putters with a friend. Itfs working pretty well so far," he said.
gOutside the Irish Amateur, this is my favorite event. I just love Lahinch, and the atmosphere and the game has been good.
It will take a positive spirit and the ability to grind on Sunday as the weather and a long week on a testing golf course will have the nerves frayed and the legs a little weak.
O'Keeffe, a personal trainer, is feeling good.
gI think itfs getting better every round, and itfs a golf course I am obviously comfortable on, and I am really enjoying it and loving the weather.h
Round of 64 and Round of 32 Recap
After two rounds of stroke play in the South of Ireland Championship, only three of the top ten seeds remain.
The seven seed, Robert Brazil, won his matches 5&4 and 2&1 to reach the Round of 16. He'll face off against 42 seed Conor Bryne in the Round of 16.
The third seed, Peter O'Keeffe is also still alive after beating Dean O'Riordan 2&1 and Patrick Alder 3&2.
O'Keeffe has a lot riding on winning this week. It's been rumored that he must win the South of Ireland to earn a spot on the Ireland team in the Men's Home Internationals.
"Whether they want to pick me or not is up to them, but I'm absolutely playing well enough to be on any team in my head," O'Keeffe said to Irish Golf Desk. "Obviously, you'd love to play, and I believe you pick players with experience and so on, but we'll see."
The 51 seed Joe O'Neill is waiting in the Round of 16 for O'Keeffe.
The highest-seeded player left is Jack Hearn. He beat Lewis Gowdy and Donnacha Cleary on his way to Saturday's matches.
Medalist Jake Whelan fell in the first round Jordan Hyland in a tight match. Whelan never lead the match, and Hyland's lead never stretched beyond 1 hole. Hyland won the 16th hole to grab a 1-up lead and see it out on the 18th green.
Marc Boucher and Tom Cafferky played the longest match of the day. It took 23 holes for Boucher to advance. Cafferky never had the lead in the match but managed to keep it close throughout. Boucher wasn't too tired to go out and win his next match against James Marriott 4&3.
The Rounds of 16 and Quarterfinals will be played on Saturday.
Day Two Recap
After 36 holes at historic Lahinch Golf Club, the field in the South of Ireland Championship has been cut to the top 64 players for match play.
Jake Whelan is the medalist after rounds of 71-67 put him at 6-under par. He's no stranger to top-notch Irish Amateur golf. Whelan won the Mullingar Scratch Trophy in 2021 and the Munster Strokeplay in 2022. The South of Ireland would make a tidy treble of victories over the last three years.
Whelan's round started with a bang. He eagled the second hole and made birdies on hole Nos. 4,7,9. In the end, it was an opening 31. The 67 was the best score in the field over the two days.
Jack Hearn, Conor Clarke, Darren O'Sullivan, and Pete O'Keeffe all finished one shot behind Whelan.
O'Keeffe, while one of the most decorated amateurs in Irish golf in recent years, has had a tough go of it as he pushes for a spot on the Walker Cup team.
His putting has been holding him. O'Keeffe is a personal trainer, and one of his clients had a putter that O'Keeffe took a liking to.
“I had a look at it. The putter just swings, and because I've been pushing putts all season, I gave it a go, and I hit two identical putts," O'Keeffe said to Irish Golf Desk. "So I went away and got the same head, extended it myself, put a grip on, a bit of lead tape, and it's lovely."
Hearn, who is also a Walker Cup hopeful, finished his senior year at South Alabama this spring. He shot 70-69.
The other player at 5-under par is representing Northern Ireland well. In the blustery conditions in the first round he shot 70 and backed it up with a 69 on Thursday.
A handful of players bounced back from a tough opening round in weather that O'Keeffe described as "horrendous." The biggest mover was Gary Collins who shot an 80 in the first round, but a second-round 69 moved him 70 spots up the board and safely into match play.
Round One Recap
Peter O'Keeffe is on the shortlist for a Walker Cup team selection. He started the South of Ireland with a bogey-free 66; one shot better than three other competitors: Sean Desmond, Darren O'Sullivan, David Reddan.
It was a dreary day at Lahinch Golf Club as the field of 149 players vied for 64 match play slots, so it appears that O'Keeffe is rather safe with 18 holes remaining.
On the Amateur Golf Podcast in January 2022, O'Keeffe said Lahinch was one of his favorite golf courses in Ireland. He specifically mentioned his affinity for the South of Ireland tournament and the good vibes it has.
"It's more than a golf course. We go there at the end of July. It's a real holiday feel," O'Keeffe said. "I have young kids and my wife loves it there as well. So we have a real nice connection to Lahinch."
For all the love O'Keeffe has for the event, he hasn't broken through to win it yet.
"I've had a few close calls," he said.
The defending champion, Hugh Foley, who also finished runner-up in the All-Ireland U.S. Mid-Amateur championship to his friend Matthew McClean is not in the field this year.
It's a long week, but O'Keeffe is certainly off to an auspicious start.