Carvill rolls back the years

THERE have been one or two serious negatives, but on balance Jim Carvill’s return earlier this year to the amateur game after 15 years as a professional has proven a great success.

Having been reinstated in March and accorded a plus-one handicap on April 1, he captured the East of Ireland Championship at Baltray over the June holiday weekend. As a result, he was selected on the Irish team for the European Championship at Hillside and that’s where things went awry.

Not alone did he and his teammates fail to deliver on their considerable potential but Carvill had his wallet containing £400 and several euro stolen as he showered after play on Saturday.

He has recovered from that experience to regain his touch on the golf course, a point the 38-year-old from Warrenpoint has been making over the past couple of days in the South of Ireland.

Carvill undoubtedly played the best golf of the afternoon’s fourth round as he defeated Michael Buggy from Castlecomer by five and four having earlier come through at the 16th against Martin Poucher of the Castle.

Carvill now finds himself in the last 16 and one of the few fancied pre-tournament competitors remaining in contention.

Among the big names to fall by the wayside yesterday was defending champion Cian McNamara who lost in the fourth round to Michael Mulryan, another richly talented teenager from Athenry.

McNamara battled to try and recover from a slow start. Three down after nine, the Limerickman reduced his arrears to one after 12 but could make no further inroads and the finish came at the 17th.

Eddie Power, who on Sunday had shown glimpses of a return to the form that made him a three- time Close champion, departed the scene in the third round, beaten two and one by Cian Curley of Newlands who went on to put out Karl Bornemann of Douglas in the afternoon. Curley, one of the many impressive youngsters in the field, now meets former international Pat Murray, the secretary/ manager at Limerick Golf Club.

Murray has looked decidedly impressive to date and yesterday disposed of Nenagh’s Collwyn Martin and Mark Collins, formerly of Mahon and more recently attached to Sutton, playing only 29 holes in the process.

It is an understatement to say the destination of this 104th South is wide open. Darren Crowe from Dunmurry, the 2004 World Universities champion and runner-up in this year’s Irish Open Amateur Championship, has emerged as the favourite in the top half of the draw with Murray and Kenny McGarry of Bandon appearing to present the greatest threat.

McGarry had a fine win over Eoin O’Sullivan of the Island and now plays against Noel Kavanagh, one of three East Tennessee State students in action yesterday.

Jim Carvill is back in Lahinch for the first time since 1990 when he lost in the final to Darren Clarke. He was at the height of his powers at the time and having beaten Paul McGinley two and one in the semi-finals, fancied his chances in the decider. But he says he failed to perform anywhere near his best and Clarke won easily by four and three.

Carvill duly turned professional at the end of that year and while he made a half dozen appearances on the European Tour, he was largely confined to the Challenge and the Mastercard and Europro Tours before finally calling it a day in 2001.

However, his love for the game never waned, he practiced and played away to such an extent that Paul McCartan at Warrenpoint suggested there was no good reason for doing so without competing at some level.

Carvill ran off five straight pars, three of them birdies, from the seventh on the way to a hugely impressive win over Buggy. And he finished it off in style with a superb nine iron to a foot for his fifth birdie of the round at the 14th. He says “Lahinch is a lot different from what I remember 15 years’ ago and it’s also a big improvement. You look at holes like the short eighth and think it’s been there for 50 years.”

Carvill looks the man to beat because of his experience and the quality of his shot making but he readily makes the point that there is still a long way to go.

His next opponent is burly Rory Leonard from Banbridge, the club Carvill’s Warrenpoint meet in a true local derby in Sunday’s Ulster semi-final. Leonard may not look the fittest sportsman but he is a talented golfer and will be remembered for his appearance in the final of the 1999 West of Ireland at Enniscrone when he was beaten by the Finn Miko Ilonen.

One of the more fascinating matches this morning involves Aaron O’Callaghan, 19, from Douglas, and Niall Kearney, the giant, 17 year-old fifth year student at St Pauls, Raheny. O’Callaghan needed 37 holes to come through his two matches yesterday and is clearly battle hardened. And another of the younger school, Brian O’Connor of Hermitage, is safely into the last 16.

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