Top contenders squeeze home in Seapoint

East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell and leading qualifier Stuart Grehan were forced to dig deep to make it into the last 16 of the AIG-sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship at a sun-kissed Seapoint.

On another day when stiff southerly winds made life tough for the field at the demanding Termonfeckin links, Grehan had to hole a 35-footer for birdie on the final green to beat the impressive Paul Reavey from Warrenpoint by one hole.

It was even tougher for Campbell, who was taken to the 22nd by Skibbereen’s Kieran Lynch before coming out on top with a solid par four.

While all this was going on, Limerick’s Pat Murray had a tight one-hole win over Portmarnock’s Jack Pierse in the morning before crushing 2002 champion John McGinn of Laytown and Bettystown by 7 and 6.

“I have a bit of a bug and I’m feeling a bit sluggish but the game was good,” said 42-year-old Murray, who was champion at Enniscrone in 2009. “I played really, really well.

“I made a few birdies early at the third, fifth and seventh, and was six up after nine. It’s a new day tomorrow but the big stick came out today and it makes the course a lot easier if you are driving it well. And I am driving well.”

Murray will need to be at his best off the tee to beat big-hitting Knock man Colin Fairweather, who beat clubmate and multiple championship winner Michael Sinclair 5 and 3, before crushing Elm Park’s Keagan Cummings 6 and 5.

The winner will play the winner of up-and-coming Geoff Lenehan of Portmarnock and former East of Ireland champion Eoin Arthurs, with Stephen Healy facing Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty.

The winner of the Healy versus O’Flaherty match will take on East of Ireland winner Campbell, who struggled to close out both of his matches as he battles to recover from his efforts at Baltray.

Five up with six to play against Royal Curragh’s Colum Kenny in the morning, he only won 2 and 1 and then ended up in a marathon with Lynch, having led by three holes with just six to play.

Lynch won the 13th and 14th in par, birdied the 16th to go all square and then took the 17th in par to go to the last one up.

In the end, he three-putted the 18th for a bogey, missing from four feet for the match. In extra holes he shaved the cup with a 12 footer at the 21 but lost on the 22nd when he got a flyer through the back of the par-four fourth green from the right semi-rough and took three more to get down.

“I am just delighted to get over the line,” Campbell said.

“Those last few holes need a lot of attention and I’m starting to make a few tired swings coming in. But I am still in the tournament and I still have a chance to win.”

The bottom half of the draw features several unheralded young players, with the picks of the last 16 ties the clash of Royal Dublin’s Ian O’Rourke with leading qualifier Grehan and also the meeting of Dungarvan veteran Alan Thomas with the talented Stackstown left-hander Richard Bridges.

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