HARRY DIAMOND has been polishing his game with the glitterati of world golf, playing 'friendly' rounds with Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson and Camilo Villegas during a recent visit to West Palm Beach with his best pal Rory McIlroy.
So it was no surprise to see Diamond sparkle yesterday as he drilled Dunmurry stalwart Darren Crowe 4&3 in the first match-play round at the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point.
And then followed up with a performance every bit as resilient as his surname suggests by coming from three-down through 10 to beat Lee Valley's Sean Barry by one hole.
As he looked forward to this morning's third-round confrontation with flinty Limerick warrior Pat Murray (39), Diamond reckoned a fortnight's practice with McIlroy in Florida, followed by a week at the US Masters, was the perfect preparation.
"It was fantastic," he said. "Rory helps me a lot with my game and equipment. Playing with guys like him, Luke, Dustin and Camilo was a real eye-opener for me, just to see how good you need to be."
Diamond (27), who manages glitzy Bangor nightspot Café Ceol for his father, admits these five-star practice rounds at Old Palm and The Bear didn't come cheap as he lost a few bucks in side bets, especially to McIlroy. "Rory was shooting 63s and 64s. He was giving me six shots, I was shooting level par and still getting beat."
If McIlroy's performance in leading the Masters for 63 holes was impressive, he surprised even his mates by bouncing straight back after the final-round 80 that wrecked his hopes of victory.
"That Sunday night, he was great. I think we were more disappointed than he was. He knows he's got plenty more chances to win Majors," said Diamond, who hit back against Barry with birdies at 11, 12, 15 and 16.
Excitement will course across Rosses Point this morning as three members of Co Sligo -- Gary McDermott, Barry Anderson and Steffan O'Hara -- come out swinging for places in the quarter-finals.
McDermott (29) gained sweet revenge for his 21st-hole defeat by Simon McConnell last year with a dramatic one-up victory over the Ballyclare man yesterday. He now faces Kieran Lovelock (23) a plus-two handicap from London who beat South of Ireland champion John Greene.
Anderson, an 8&7 winner over Daniel Coyle, plays Muskerry's Dave O'Donovan, while O'Hara will have his hands full against Paul Cutler.
Dermot McElroy (17) has impressed the Walker Cup selectors recently but still needed superlative birdies at 16 and 17 to edge out his Irish Boys' team-mate and good friend Gavin Moynihan (16).