Hurley turns up heat to storm into semis

West Waterford’s Gary Hurley needed just 25 holes to blast his way into this morning’s semi-finals of the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at a sun-kissed County Sligo.

Hurley turns up heat to storm into semis

But after losing on the 22nd in arctic conditions in the last 16 just 12 months ago, he will be taking nothing for granted when he faces Jack Hume from Naas for a place in the final.

The 21-year old Munster star will never forget the cold — the windchill factor was minus 13 — as Hume put him away last year.

“It was so cold you could hardly feel your hands,” said Hurley after crushing Portmarnock’s James Fox 7&5 and Galway’s Joe Lyons 8&6. “Hopefully it will be warmer tomorrow. It would be great to win a championship.”

Hurley was in terrific form as he put Fox to the sword on the 13th before handing 41-year old veteran Lyons similar punishment in the afternoon.

Lyons, winner of the West in 2007, had high hopes of another big week when he played superbly to beat the promising Conor O’Rourke of Naas on the 18th in the morning.

But Hurley proved to be a step too far as he lost the first to a bogey, the second to a chip-in birdie and the third to an eagle three.

“I three-putted five and six trying to force it and went five down and that was it,” said Lyons, glancing over at his tormentor. “He will take a bit of beating.”

So too will Hume, who beat Dungarvan’s Kevin Stack 5&4 before being forced to hole clutch par putts at the 14th, 15th and 16th to see off the combative Warrenpoint man Colm Campbell 3&1 in the quarter-finals.

Winner of all four boys’ provincial titles in 2010, the 20-year old missed out on a play-off by a shot in last year’s Irish Amateur Open, just a week after losing a play-off for the Lytham Trophy.

“I had two near misses last year,” said Hume, who is a full international. “Hopefully those experiences will stand to me tomorrow.”

If he wins, he faces a tough task against the winner of the clash between leading qualifier Reeve Whitson from Mourne and Balbriggan’s reigning Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon.

Cannon, 35, beat John Ross Galbraith of Whitehead by 4&2 in the morning before crushing Lucan’s Richard O’Donovan — who had holed a 60-footer on the 19th to beat Dermot McElroy in the morning— by 5&4.

“I’ve nothing to prove,” said the Dubliner, who is a professional strength and conditioning coach. “I am much more mature as a golfer at this stage, I’m just enjoying it and I have nothing to lose tomorrow.”

Whitson won the illustrious Spanish Amateur Open Matchplay Championship last year and the Ireland international admits that an Irish ‘major’ would be special.

After throwing away a four-up lead with five to go to lose to Niall Gorey on the 19th in the semi-finals 12 months ago, he’s another man not taking anything for granted.

“To win one of the Irish events would be as big as winning in Spain,” said Whitson, who beat Jeff Hopkins 3&1 before breaking the hearts of the huge local support with a comfortable 5&3 quarter-final win over Co Sligo’s Steffan O’Hara.

“I’m just delighted to go through because this is where I got to last year so I am looking forward to having a chance to improve on that.

“I knew it would be tough to get through against Steffan but I felt I concentrated really well with all that was going on around me and I was really well focussed and kept hitting good shots.”

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