Grant targets first amateur 'major' as he sets his sights on pro ranks
The glory days of the South of Ireland Championship might be long gone but that won't stop Knock's Nicky Grant battling to win his first amateur 'major'.
On a day when defending champion Pat Murray lost on the 19th to Royal Dublin's Bryan McSweeney, the 26-year-old former international continued his quest with a 4&3 win over veteran Arthur Pierse.
After beating Killeen Castle's Stephen McCarthy 5&3, Grant ended the Lahinch dream of 62-year-old Pierse with a brilliant putting display to set up a last-16 clash with Carton House's Colin Cunningham.
"You could see he is a class act," Grant said of Pierse. "If I hadn't played at all decently, I would have been hammered."
Pierse, who has reached six South of Ireland finals and lost them all, expressed his concern over the future of the oldest of the provincial championships given that none of the international players chosen last week for next months' Home Internationals are in the field.
"There was a time when you dare not skip the South because you wouldn't make the Home Internationals," the former Walker Cup player said.
"Now the team is picked already and I believe they need to pick it after the South. The Union needs to act.
"On a day like today, there was a time when you could have a couple of thousand people here. With nobody playing, it's sad for the guy who wins it because it doesn't mean as much."
Don't tell that to Grant, who is desperate to win an amateur 'major' before contemplating a possible move into the professional ranks later this year.
"It's definitely a monkey I'd like to get off my back," he said.
The last 16 is an attractive blend of youth and experience but it doesn't include reigning champion Murray, who three-putted the 19th to lose to Dubliner McSweeney.
Murray wasn't the only champion to fall as Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon lost 4&3 to Mallow's Paul McCarthy.
Ardee's Eugene Smith, who reached the semi-finals last year, beat Ross Kenny of Naas 6&5 and now takes on Rathmore's Ben Best, while Royal Dublin's Sean Ryan beat Stuart Grehan of Tullamore 4&3 and will now face Cairndhu's Ryan McKinstry.
County Louth's Simon Ward, the 2006 champion, made five birdies and just one bogey in a 6&5 demolition of Royal Dublin-based Sligo man Barry Anderson.
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