Bridges - skipping Links is the right move in Close bid
Pat Murray came back from the dead not once but twice to reach the semi-finals of the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, but it was Stackstown left-hander Richard Bridges who left Seapoint feeling 10 feet tall after a day of thrills and spills that matched the weather.
The 27-year-old pulled out of last week's St Andrews Links Trophy, where 11 of Ireland's top players teed it up, in order to chase what would be his maiden championship success. And his decision has proved to be the right one so far.
On a day when East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell kept his hopes of a famous double alive by seeing off Declan Loftus 6&5 and then Cork's Gary O'Flaherty on the last to set up a humdinger of a semi-final with 42-year-old Murray, Bridges quietly went about his business.
In the morning he despatched Dungarvan's Alan Thomas by 6&5 and, after a short suspension of play due to the threat of lightning, he found himself three down after nine in the quarter-finals to leading qualifier Stuart Grehan of Tullamore – and still trailed by two holes with four to play.
Digging deep against a fatigued Grehan, Bridges birdied the short 15th from three feet, claimed the 16th in par and then birdied the par-three 17th with a nine-iron to two feet to go ahead for the first time before closing out the match with a par at the last.
"I'm looking to win it now," said Bridges, who has yet to make a Leinster team despite years of solid performances. "That's why I pulled out of St Andrews. I thought I had a great chance of winning the Close and you have to break through some time. I will be going out all guns blazing tomorrow morning."
He faces the talented 20-year-old former Boys international John Ross Galbraith from Whitehead, who had to dig deep to beat Carton House's David Carey 3&1 having seen his five-hole lead after nine reduced to just one with four to play.
The winner will be the underdog in the final, with the Murray-Campbell clash likely to be a cracker.
Winner of the Close in 2009, Tipperary native Murray was two down with four to play against Forrest Little's Eoin Arthurs but birdied the 15th and 16th to level the match and then won the 18th with a par five after Arthurs hit a poor drive well left and bogeyed.
As for Campbell, who was three up with four to play but had to hole a seven-footer on the last to go through, he said: "I can't think too far ahead but if I keep playing the way I am playing, hopefully I will be lifting another trophy tomorrow afternoon."