McDowell's feats inspire Dunbar to fly club flag
THE Rathmore Golf Club colours were flying high at Royal Dublin yesterday as Alan Dunbar, another champion member of US Open winner Graeme McDowell's club, came through two tough matches in the Golfsure Irish Close Championship.
Dunbar (20) missed seeing his famous clubmate's epic victory at Pebble Beach on Sunday night because there was no television in his bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
But perhaps it was just as well. The Irish Amateur Open winner at the same venue last month admitted he was feeling fatigued after a hectic few weeks. A late night might have worn him out completely.
Last week, Dunbar had a tough campaign in the British Amateur Championship, where he reached the last 16.
On Friday, he returned to Portrush and left home at 5am on Saturday to play in the stroke play qualifying at Royal Dublin.
Dunbar did enough to get through, and yesterday had two narrow match play victories, defeating David Daly of Muskerry by one hole and then beating Greg Carew (Edenderry) at the 19th.
In the first match, Dunbar holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the last to seal victory.
He looked dead and buried against Carew in the second round, but his opponent missed from a foot and a double-bogey on the 18th gifted Dunbar a lifeline.
Dunbar then clinched the match on the 19th.
"I just feel wrecked. I'll still be trying my hardest tomorrow, but it's going to be difficult," said Dunbar.
He survived, but other current champions to lose included East of Ireland holder Cian Curley (Newlands), Lytham Trophy winner Paul Cutler (Portstewart) and South of Ireland champion Robbie Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown).
Last year's Irish Close winner Pat Murray of Limerick and North of Ireland title holder Wayne Telford failed to qualify.
Curley's conqueror was 20-year-old Claremorris member Stephen Healy.
Healy, a former Irish Boys champion, is in the third year of a scholarship to Jacksonville University. He beat Curley 4&3, and ousted Niall Gorey (Lee Valley) by two holes in the afternoon.
"My short game's been saving me. I'm not hitting the ball well, but I'm scoring very well, and that's what match play is all about," said Healy afterwards.
Luke Lennox of Moyola Park, who won the Silver Medal as leading qualifier, defeated Westmantown's David Reilly 3&1 and crushed Barry Daly of Edmondstown 8&7.
Banbridge's Rory Leonard, the West of Ireland and Munster Stroke Play Championship holder, had a 6&4 win over Ronan Burke (Castle) and beat Ian Brennan of Greenore by two holes.
Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little) got a shock on the fourth hole of his match against Royal Dublin's Darragh Coghlan when he discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag.
They were all-square at the time, and Arthurs' two-hole penalty was compounded when he lost the hole.
"I went from all-square to three down in a few minutes," said Arthurs.
However, the 2008 East of Ireland champion beat Coghlan on the 19th and claimed a 2&1 victory against Co Sligo's Gary McDermott.