Thursday 24 January 2019

Lester aiming to make up for 'South' heartache in 'Close' last-16

Rowan Lester. Photo: Thomas Caffrey/GolfFile
Rowan Lester. Photo: Thomas Caffrey/GolfFile

Brian Keogh

Hermitage's Rowan Lester is determined to make up for his Lahinch heartbreak after battling his way into the last-16 of the AIG Irish Amateur Close at the European Club.

The Irish international (22) will not have to worry about Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty after the man who beat him in the South of Ireland final last Sunday fell to Yale-based Killiney member Eoin Leonard by one hole in the second round.

And while he knows he faces a tough third-round clash with international team-mate Alex Gleeson, who is one of three Castle players in the last-16, he's glad he decided against pulling out of this week's event.

"I was thinking what else am I going to do?" said Lester, who played with Gleeson and Rafferty in qualifying before beating Rosslare's Mark Mullen by two holes and Royal Portrush's Peter Kerr 2 and 1.

"I may as well try and go get a win after last week. It would really make up for it."


With a two-club wind blowing, Lester was relieved to birdie the 17th after a 168-yard seven iron to 10 feet and avoid any late drama.

"I don't like going down 18, it's never nice even if you're one up," he said, no doubt recalling how Rafferty birdied the 18th at Lahinch to force extra holes before beating him on the 20th."

"You're putting yourself under stress that you don't need to put yourself under."

Gleeson is joined in the last-16 by clubmates Robert Moran, who faces Laytown and Bettystown's Eugene Smith, and Jack Walsh, who takes on international Peter O'Keeffe from Douglas.

A former professional, O'Keeffe (36) is hoping to add the "Close" to his win in last year's Irish Amateur Open triumph and after he beat one of the favourites in Kinsale's John Murphy, the reigning St Andrews Links Trophy winner, he believes he's close to his 2017 form.

"I'd love it," O'Keeffe said of the Open-Close double last which was completed by Padraig Harrington in 1995.

"That's obviously in my head. I've been playing nicely all year, I just haven't been getting anything out of it."

There is no shortage of winners in the last 16 with Mallow's James Sugrue set to face fellow South of Ireland winner Conor Purcell and Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon through to face Rosslare's Gary Collins.

Leading qualifier Ronan Mullarney also cruised into the third round but there was no fairytale for 15-year-old Joseph Byrne from Baltinglass who fell at the 21st to Tandragee's Ross Dutton late in the day.

Irish Independent

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