'West' heats up as Lyons strikes blow for veterans
Youth might have had its fling but Joe Lyons reminded everyone that the experienced heads still have a lot to say in the last 16 of the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Championship at Co Sligo.
The surreal sight of shorts and T-shirts at Rosses Point, bathed in sunshine and caressed by a gentle breeze that only rose to 20mph in the afternoon, gave way to a wave of young guns cruising into the third round.
Lyons (41) beat his old Irish international foursomes partner Pat Murray by one hole in a tight encounter to set up a third-round clash with 22-year-old Conor O'Rourke of Naas, who ended the dream of 17-year-old course record holder David Brady from Co Sligo on the 19th.
"The old guys are still going strong," said Lyons, who won the title in 2007. "Pat minded me in the Home Internationals when I played for Ireland. He was the senior man in our foursomes partnership.
"Over 18 holes you have a chance against anyone. Okay, I'm a bit stiff and sore now after two rounds but beware the injured golfer! Remember, Pat won the South the year before last after playing the Interpros the week before and then eight matches at Lahinch."
Lyons was superb as he beat Ardee's Eugene Smith 5&4 in the morning but found Murray a tougher prospect in the afternoon before he holed a slick 15 footer on the 17th to take what proved to be a crucial one-up lead.
"It was the exact same putt I holed to give Connacht the Interpros here in 2011 to break a 28-year gap," Lyons said. "I didn't have to worry about the pace."
While there was a surprise defeat for defending champion Rory McNamara in the first round at the hands of Newlands' Jake Whelan and a shock for leading qualifier Reeve Whitson as he was forced to dig deep to beat Eddie McCormack on the 19th, the cream rose to the top on a weekend of sensational scoring.
No fewer than three albatrosses were recorded over the two strokeplay qualifying rounds. Stephen McCarthy of Black Bush had a two at the fifth on Friday and Matt Wylie matched him on Saturday while Tom Gandy from the Mount Murray on the Isle of Man had a two at the par-five 12th.
Yesterday, Ballymena's Dermot McElroy aced the 13th with a seven-iron in the morning as he beat Fota Island's Keith Crowley 3&2.
The 21-year-old then beat Castle's Alex Gleeson 3&2 in the afternoon to set up a last-16 meeting with Lucan's Richard O'Donovan, who is coming back to form after a difficult 2013.
"I was lucky in the match with Keith because he was coming back at me," McElroy said. "I honestly can't believe I am wearing a T-shirt out there at Rosses Point. We are used to 40mph winds with hailstones hitting you. It's 18 degrees! I can't believe it."
Leading qualifier Whitson dodged a bullet to beat McCormack on the 19th and set up a last-16 clash with Royal Dublin's Jeff Hopkins.
Two-down with two to play, he holed a crucial 10-footer for a winning par at the 17th, hit the pin with a 67-yard pitch to win the 18th in birdie and then captured the first extra hole with a par four.
Whitson will face Royal Dublin's Jeff Hopkins with the winner to take on Co Sligo's Steffan O'Hara or Stackstown left-hander Richard Bridges in the quarter-finals.
Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon hit every green, racking up four birdies before an eagle three at the 12th in a 4&3 win over close friend Dessie Morgan.
Naas' Jack Hume saw off Michael Buggy on the 18th in the morning before beating Balmoral's Matthew McClean 5&4 and now meets Dungarvan's Kevin Stack, who beat Rosslare's Gary Collins 3&1.
"I played better in the afternoon," said 20-year old Hume. "I didn't putt well this morning and was lucky to come through.
"But I holed a few more putts this afternoon. I was up from the start and pretty comfortable for the most part. It was pretty breezy this afternoon but I'm pleased with the way it's gone so far."
Belvoir Park's Harry Diamond, the 2012 champion, faces fellow Ulster Interprovincial team-mate Colm Campbell of Warrenpoint, who had a brace of 4&3 wins over Lahinch's Stephen Loftus and Luttrellstown Castle's Shaun O'Connor respectively.
West Waterford's Gary Hurley was also impressive, beating Co Louth's Gareth Bohill 3&2 to set up a clash with the superb ball-striking of Portmarnock's James Fox, who had a tight one hole won over Warrenpoint's William Hanna.
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