Sport Golf

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Pierse faces endurance test to land 'South' title

Arthur Pierse drives off the fourth tee on his way to victory at the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch Photo: Golffile / Thos Caffrey
Arthur Pierse drives off the fourth tee on his way to victory at the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch Photo: Golffile / Thos Caffrey

Brian Keogh

Thoroughbred Arthur Pierse has the game to gallop to an historic first victory in the Pierse Motors South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Lahinch.

But at the age of 65 the former Walker Cup player admits that it's not his game that's the problem but his legs as he faces the possibility of having to play 72 holes or more over the next two days to win the amateur major he needs to complete the grand slam of Ireland's four provincial titles.

Following a 3&2 first round win over Ardee's Eugene Smith, Pierse surprised international John Ross Galbraith - a former Irish Close and North of Ireland champion - walking away a 2&1 winner to secure a last 16 appearance for the second time in four years.

After suffering what he reckons were "five or six" semi-final defeats in the 'South' over the last 40 years, the Tipperary native truly believes he can get over the line and lift the famous old trophy.

His biggest rival is not this morning's third round rival Daniel Holland of Castle but his age.

In his youth, he beat Darren Clarke 7&6 in the semi-finals en route to North of Ireland glory in 1987 and his prowess with the driver is such that Pádraig Harrington feared him.

"Arthur Pierse was unquestionably the best driver of a ball that ever played in a left to right wind," Harrington said.

"His ability to swing the golf club and strike the golf ball was as good as any pro's was or is. You worried about playing Arthur Pierse."


And Pierse?

"I am not worried about any of them," he said with a big grin. "Can I win? The legs are the only thing. Sometimes you wake up and the adrenaline has gone. But I feel a bit better this time than I did the last few times I made it this far.

"I am playing as well as anyone. If there were 18 holes every day, I'd have a great chance. But two rounds a day? Who knows? As I said, I am not worried about any of them, just me."

Pierse, who hits the ball as far as he did in his prime, made just two bogeys and made five birdies in his 35 holes, playing metronomically from tee to green and putting beautifully.

"He's still got it," Galbraith said. "I was surprised how far he got the ball out there. He just doesn't hit a bad shot."

If Pierse is the thoroughbred who never went the distance, 2010 champion John Greene from Portmarnock emerged as the working man's hero when he beat The Island's Paul McBride at the 20th to revive hopes of a second coming. Now 30 and working full-time for a private equity fund, he felt a winner at Limerick racetrack on Thursday when a horse of which he is part-owner, An Caisteal Nuadh, captured the bumper it its maiden outing.

Greene would not class himself in McBride's class but he holed a clutch eight-footer at the 18th to match McBride's birdie and force extra holes and keep alive his hopes of proving he no one-hit wonder.

He then pitched to eight feet from rough right and holed another eight-footer for birdie at the 20th where McBride came up nine feet short with his third from the apron and grazed the hole with his next.

"I am playing enough. I am trying to cruise in under the radar.

"I haven't done anything here since I won," said Greene, who was playing out of Carlow in 2010.

"I've gotten through a few rounds but I haven't covered myself in glory. I don't really enjoy being a one-hit wonder so I want to prove it to a few people."

Irish Independent

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