Ward emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the amateur game as a 19 year-old in 2006 when he defeated Ulsterman Darren Crowe to capture the “South” title. A year later, he was a member of the same Irish side as Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry that won the European Team Championship but even then he never seriously considered following them into the paid ranks.
“I always intended putting my education first and so went to college at UU Belfast and followed with a Masters in Business Administration at Central Florida University”, explained the blond haired Co Louth golfer.
“I’m now working in the golf business in Belfast and still enjoying my golf. I’m pretty much wrecked after playing the Interpros last week and did very well to come through my third round match against Matthew McLean from Balmoral.
Ward went on to beat American visitor Conor Casey at the 18th in the afternoon and afterwards insisted he wasn’t unduly upset at being omitted from the Irish team for next month’s Home Internationals.
“I would have been delighted to get the call but I don’t worry too much about teams any more,” he declared. “In fairness, I think they have picked a very good side and have a very good chance in the championship.”
Niall Gorey, 32, a member of the Irish team twelve months ago, has also lost his place but is equally philosophical about his fate, stating: “I haven’t had a good year and when you don’t play well, you don’t get picked. I have no complaints, I didn’t deserve to be picked.”
Like Ward, Gorey admitted to being “very tired” after the triumphant but draining Royal Co Down campaign. However, you can expect both players to lift their game this morning now that they are into the last 16 of the country’s oldest provincial championship.
Gorey’s morale is also high after being part of what he described as “the best Munster team in many years” and winning both his matches yesterday against Paul O’Neill of Shannon and Stephen Dwyer (Lucan) at the 15th, shooting ten birdies and dropping only one shot in the process, should help to preserve some badly needed energy.
Local hopes have been maintained by Stephen Loftus, a 17th hole winner over Connacht Interpro Michael Durcan, while also through in the top half of the draw is Eugene Smith from Ardee, winner earlier this year of the Munster Youths title who needed to birdie the 19th to dispose of the young Ulsterman William Russell.
Last year’s beaten finalist, Andrew Hogan, went out to Simon Bryan of Delgany who in the process demonstrated that his 20th hole defeat of Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty earlier in the day was no fluke. However, O’Flaherty’s Munster team mate Pat Murray of Limerick had two comfortable wins to look a likely candidate in the top half of the draw.
The holder, Stephen Walsh, was put to the pin of his collar to dispose of John A Moran, a little-known player from Charleville who showed no fear of his exalted opponent and stood one up after 12.
To his credit, however, Walsh reacted like a champion and fought back to prevail at the 17th. He now meets Colin Fairweather (Knock), who put out Munster Interpro Geoff Lenehan.
Former beaten finalist showed the effects of a few hard days at the Interpros in losing on the 18th to Paul Cullen of Royal Tara and at the end of a twelve hour day Mallow’s Ciaran McKenna fought all his way to the 19th before going down to Ulster golfer Ally Purdy.