Thursday 23 November 2017

Birthday boy Murray sets up last-16 clash with champion

In August 2012 Pat Murray ended years of heartbreak with his victory in the South of Ireland Amateur Open Golf Championship
In August 2012 Pat Murray ended years of heartbreak with his victory in the South of Ireland Amateur Open Golf Championship

Brian Keogh

Pat Murray celebrated his 44th birthday with a brace of wins but now face defending champion Stuart Bleakley in the last 16 of the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch today.

The Limerick veteran, who ended years of heartbreak with his victory in the championship in 2012, overcame Kirkistown Castle's Jonathan Breen by one hole and Galgorm Castle's Michael Reid 3&1 on another day of high winds.

"I can do it again," Murray said. "If this wind keeps up it is not going to be blistering golf that's going to win. Pars are your friend here."

The bad news for the oldest gunslinger left in town following 50-year old Eddie Power's first-round defeat to Reid is that not only does Bleakley have a hungry look, but the field is bristling with young guns with itchy trigger fingers.

"It is just a name on the board to me," 20-year-old Bleakley said coldly of his clash with Murray. "I will go out and see what happens. I'm hitting it well."

The top half of the draw looks particularly strong, with Carton House's Keith Egan coming back from three down with five to go to beat Hermitage's Rowan Lester on the 20th.


But the bad news for Egan is that he meets leading qualifier Paul McBride and the 19-year old from The Island looks like the man to beat this week after Colm Campbell fell at the first hurdle to the hot putting of Youghal's Conor Coyne.

McBride was two down after seven in the morning but he showed his class on the back nine to beat Muskerry's Shane Whooley with a birdie at the last before cruising to a 4&3 win over Warrenpoint's William Hanna.

"I felt I was a bit quick this morning so I just slowed everything down," said the Wake Forest freshman, who made birdies at the fourth and fifth followed by four in a row from the 11th to close out his match with Ulster interprovincial Hanna.

"I even slowed down walking, surprisingly for me, because I am usually very quick. And I think Lahinch suits my game. You don't actually have to be too straight off the tee but you have to be good with your irons and usually I am good with my irons."

East of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan birdied the 17th and 18th to take Esker Hills' Alan Lowry, his close pal and Maynooth University team-mate, to extra holes. He then reduced the 20th to a drive, an eight iron and two putts to set up a last-16 showdown with New Forest's Dessie Morgan.

There were also wins for Cian Geraghty, Eanna Griffin, John Conroy, Colin Fairweather, Gary O'Flaherty, Gary Collins, Tiarnan McLarnon, Jeff Hopkins, Mark MacGrath and Niall Gorey.

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