Lennox puts paid to Dunbar double dream
The dream double for Rathmore Golf Club is no longer possible and a new name will be engraved on the trophy as the Golfsure Irish Close championship enters its final day.
Those were the talking points at Royal Dublin yesterday, when the 125-year-old links was in splendid condition, providing a fair but demanding challenge for the 16 who started out the day. Of those, four remain to contest this morning's semi-finals, three of them from Ulster and one from Dublin.
Stephen Crowe from Dunmurry plays Dara Lernihan of Castle (8.30) and Luke Lennox from Moyola Park pits his wits against Rory Leonard of Banbridge (8.45).
They vary in age -- Crowe is 27, Lernihan 23, Lennox 20 and Leonard 34 -- but each is relishing the chance to join the hallowed ranks of champions who have won the Blue Riband of Irish golf.
Unfortunately for Alan Dunbar of Rathmore, the chance of making it a double week of celebration for the club ended when he lost his quarter-final match to close pal and international team-mate Lennox by one hole.
The 20-year-old, who sees fellow Rathmore clubman Graeme McDowell as a role model, won the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin last month, and just ran out of steam yesterday. Dunbar confessed to weariness after reaching the last 16 of the British Amateur last week.
He was taken to the 19th hole in his three match-play rounds since Monday morning, squeezing through each time, but Lennox didn't let the match go into tie-holes.
The Moyola Park player crucially birdied the 454-yard par-4 15th to go one up and held that lead to the 18th.
He clinched the match with a superb 5-iron from a bad lie that carried across the out of bounds to land safely in the heart of the green and two-putted for par from 25 feet.
Dunbar's birdie attempt slid past the hole and the match was over.
Lennox, a plus-4 handicap, prefers stroke play to match play, as he proved by winning the Silver Medal as leading qualifier and has not previously reached a semi-final of a GUI 'Major'.
Lernihan, by contrast, was in the Irish Close final two years ago, but lost to Paul O'Hanlon. His game has been admirably steady in all departments, as he showed by a 5&4 afternoon win over former East of Ireland winner Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little).
"I feel comfortable on this course. I like links golf. The strong point of my game has been my chipping and putting all week," said Lernihan.
Crowe will play Lernihan after his 4&3 last-eight win over Stephen Loftus of Lahinch.
Leonard is having quite a year, winning his first big title, the West of Ireland, last April and then landing the Munster Stroke Play Championship in May.
Leonard, who works with Junior Golf Ireland, has been a long time on the championship circuit without making the breakthrough, so how come it's all happening this year?
"I probably wouldn't have been the straightest in the past, but I have been driving the ball well.
"I don't want to tempt fate, but I've been very steady this week -- not too many birdies or bogies, but lots of pars," said Leonard.
He's certainly not complaining after successive 4&3 victories over Lucan's Richard O'Donovan and Gerard Kelly (County Louth) yesterday.