Sport Golf

Sunday 25 February 2018

Mullarney makes most of local knowledge at Amateur Close

Ronan Mullarney. Photo: Pat Cashman
Ronan Mullarney. Photo: Pat Cashman

Brian Keogh

Local knowledge was key as Galway's Ronan Mullarney defied winds gusting up to 40kmph to remain on course to become the first home winner of the AIG Irish Amateur Close for 30 years.

A member of the host club has not won the 'Close' since Eddie Power in Tramore 30 years ago.

But Mullarney has a great chance after he beat defending champion Alex Gleeson 5 and 4 in high winds and driving rain.

While the 21-year-old now faces a tough third round tie with the in-form Dundalk international Caolan Rafferty, his intimate knowledge of the Salthill venue must give him the edge.

"I know where to go and where not to go," said Mullarney, who was an estimated four-under par to Gleeson's one-over.

"With some of the pins out there today, local knowledge could have been worth two holes. There is something comforting about knowing where to go and where not to go."

Four up after eight, Mullarney saw Gleeson chip in for birdie at the ninth to reduce to deficit to just three holes.

But he then birdied the 10th from 10 feet to go four up again, halved the 11th in pars and the 12th and 13th in birdies before closing out the match on the 14th.

"I've had stars and NBs beside the Close in the calendar," confessed Mullarney, who lives ten minutes from the course.

Rafferty came back from one down after 14 holes to beat Naas's Jonathan Yates by one hole.

Leading qualifier Peter Kerr from Royal Portrush fell by 2 and 1 to 20-year-old Cian Feeney from Co Sligo but he will have his work cut out against East of Ireland runner-up Robbie Pierse from Grange, who beat Dromoland's Brian Shally 8 and 7 before seeing off Mountrath's Niall Hearns 3 and 2.

Irish Independent

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