Anderson eyes end to 67-year home drought
It has been 67 years since a home player won the famous old trophy but Rosses Point native Barry Anderson sees no reason why it can't be him after he beat County Sligo's David Brady on the 18th to reach the semi-finals of the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
The 26-year-old accountant plays out of Royal Dublin, but as a lifelong member of the host club until this year, he takes on 21-year-old Jake Whelan in the first of today's semi-finals knowing he has the game and the experience to etch his name in the history books alongside 1950 winner Cecil Whelan.
"I lost on the 18th to Rory McNamara in the quarters in 2010 and on the 19th to Paul Cutler when he won in 2011," said Anderson, who was pegged back to all-square after Brady's gutsy par on the 17th only to see his opponent overshoot the 18th and fail to get up and down.
"Now that I am no longer playing full-time golf, I have never been as a relaxed coming into the West and don't get upset by the bad shots as I did before.
"Staying relaxed has worked so far and while it's only natural to think about winning, there are only four of us left now and someone has to win it. It might as well be me."
Whelan reached the last four in the Irish Amateur Close last year and in beating Royal Dublin's Hugh Foley 2&1 and Rosses Point native Gary McDermott 4&2 yesterday, he looked like a man on a mission.
"I am just trying to stay patient and not worry about what my opponent is doing," said the Newlands prospect, who won last year's Youths Order of Merit. "Not getting ahead of myself is key."
In the top half of the draw, 20-year-old Armagh dairy farmer William Small from Tandragee birdied the 18th from two feet to beat Naas' Robert Brazill by one hole and set up a semi-final clash with Portmarnock's Jack Pierse.
Pierse - another 26-year-old accountant - has a straight hitting style, a silken putting touch and the talent to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Arthur Pierse, a two-time West of Ireland winner; his relaxed attitude to the game could be his greatest asset.
"Some of the guys who play full-time are under a lot of pressure to hit good shots all the time but if I hit a bad one, it doesn't upset me too much because I am not out there every day whacking balls in the cold," Pierse said with his trademark grin after a solid 2&1 win over Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty in the afternoon.
"My uncle Arthur's name is on the trophy twice so it's a big name to live up to - but I will give it a go."
As for Small, the flame-haired Ulsterman won a nip-and-tuck battle with Brazill with a clutch birdie at the 18th and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Stuart Paul, who won the West playing out of Tandragee in 2002.
Happy to have an early start against Pierse and not milk cows, he said: "My dad James is here with me so my uncle is looking after the cows this week. It would be class to win this. I'm playing well so let's just see where it goes."