But 29-year old Gary McDermott will carry the hopes of up to 2,000 supporters from the famous County Sligo club when he takes on fellow international squad member Paul Cutler of Portstewart in this morning’s semi-finals.
Cutler, 22, has been the nemesis of the Sligo men so far this week having followed his 4 and 3 third round win over local boy Steffan O’Hara with a heart-stopping 19th hole victory over fellow international Barry Anderson in yesterday’s quarter-finals. The Portstewart man, who will defend the prestigious Lytham Trophy in Lancashire next weekend, looked to be cruising into the last four when he went two up with four to play against 20-year old Anderson.
But having three putted to lose the 16th and brilliantly saved par from 10 feet to escape with a half at the 17th, he watched Anderson almost chip in for birdie from behind the 18th green and promptly three-putted from 25 feet to allow the Co. Sligo man a second chance in extra holes.
Anderson looked odds on to progress when Cutler’s drive plunged into the face of a fairway bunker right of the first fairway. But with his opponent just inches off the front of the green, the Ulster star gripped down on a nine-iron and blasted a 105-yard missile that settled just six feet from the flag.
Anderson left his long approach putt almost 10 feet short and missed for par, leaving Cutler two putts for the match which he gratefully accepted to the disappointment of a crowd that had swollen to around 1,500 by this stage.
“Three Sligo men in a row,” said Cutler with an air of satisfaction. “More big crowds tomorrow morning again I’d say. I’ll just take every hole as it comes. There’s no such thing as an easy match, anyone you meet at this stage has to be playing well.”
McDermott, 29, survived a back nine comeback to beat Londoner Kieran Lovelock by one hole in the third round before thrashing Belvoir Park’s Harry Diamond 5 and 4 — a 21st hole winner over Pat Murray — with a bogey free performance in the afternoon to keep alive his chances of becoming the first Rosses Point man to win the title since Cecil Ewing in 1950
“There’s extra pressure being from the home club but the support is great too,” McDermott said. “The crowds are always very fair and good shots will be applauded no matter who hits them. It definitely helps that’s for sure.”
Kildare native Niall Gorey will face the reigning Irish Amateur Open and North of Ireland champion Alan Dunbar in the second semi-final after one hole wins over bookies’ favourite Dermot McElroy and Kilkenny’s Craig Martin.
Now playing out of Muskerry, the 31-year old Munster interprovincial chipped in for a winning birdie at the 17th to take a crucial one up lead to the last against bookies’ favourite McElroy. And he knows he has nothing to lose against Dunbar having halved his singles with the Rathmore star in last year’s interprovincial matches in Ballinrobe.
Hoping he can cause a shock, Gorey said: “I don’t fear anyone. I only fear myself.”
Dunbar had just 19 putts in 15 holes — including a three putt at the fourth — as he beat Rathsallagh’s Jack Hume, winner of the four Boys provincial titles last season, by 4 and 3 in the third round.
He was less accurate with the blade in the afternoon but still had too much firepower for UCD scholarship student Stephen Walsh, winning 3 and 2 with a solid back nine performance.
West of Ireland Amateur Open (sponsored by Radisson Blu), Co Sligo GC.
Third round: G McDermott (Co Sligo) bt K Lovelock (Hindhead, UK) 1 hole; H Diamond (Belvoir Park) bt P Murray (Limerick) 21st; B Anderson (Co Sligo) bt D O’Donovan (Muskerry) 6/5; P Cutler (Portstewart) bt S O’Hara (Co Sligo) 6/5; N Gorey (Muskerry) bt D McElroy (Ballymena) 1 hole; C Martin (Kilkenny) bt A Hogan (Newlands) 4/3; A Dunbar (Rathmore) bt J Hume (Rathsallagh) 4/3; S Walsh (Baltinglass/UCD) bt C Fairweather (Knock) 19th.
Quarter-finals: G McDermott bt H Diamond 5/4; B Anderson bt P Cutler 19th; N Gorey bt C Martin 1 hole; A Dunbar bt S Walsh 3/2.
Today’s semi-finals: (8am) G McDermott v P Cutler; (8.15) N Gorey v A Dunbar. Final — 1.30 pm.