Flanagan carries hopes of local victory at the 'West'
Published 07/04/2015 | 02:30
Youngster Sean Flanagan will today bid to become the first local golfer to claim the West of Ireland Championship in 65 years.
The 18-year-old faces Ballymena's Dermot McElroy in this morning's semi-finals, looking to edge closer to a first 'home' triumph on the course since the legendary Cecil Ewing lifted the trophy in 1950.
Jimmy Feeney, a winner in 1987, and 2013 winner Rory McNamara were both country members of the club, but you have to go back to 1994 for when a full member even last contested a final, as Ken Kearney went down to Padraig Harrington in the decider.
Flanagan, playing in just his third 'West', continued the form that saw him lead the qualifiers from the strokeplay rounds on Saturday by defeating Limerick's Pat Murray and Balbriggan's Robert Cannon in yesterday's matchplay contests.
Flanagan was the last of the four semi-finalists to book his ticket for today's action, with last year's beaten finalist Cannon taking him to the 18th before Flanagan held his nerve from two feet to make par and take the game.
He said: "It was one of those scrappy matches that could have gone either way. But the crowd were behind me and encouraging me throughout, and that helped me.
"I let a few putts slip by in the middle of the round, but I stuck with it and just about got over the line in the end.
"I birdied the second and stayed up from there on really. But I had a lot of chances to go further up that I didn't take.
"I had short putts on seven, eight and nine, and I was walking off the ninth one-up and thinking I should have been four-up.
"But I kept at it. It is not always easy to play good golf when there is so many people around you, and so much pressure on each shot, but I loved the atmosphere out there."
This morning he will take on an in-form McElroy in the last four. The Ballymena clubman overcame the other local favourite, Gary McDermott, on the 15th in yesterday's quarter-final, having earlier beaten former finalist Eddie McCormack in the morning session.
In fact, Cannon and McCormack were two of four former finalists to be knocked out yesterday, with Stephen Healy and Des Morgan also beaten, leaving the four remaining golfers all bidding to reach their first final at the 'West'.
Before the meeting of Connacht's Flanagan and Ulster's McElroy, it will be Leinster versus Munster, as Stackstown's Richard Bridges takes on Waterford's Eanna Griffin.