Just ask Southport and Ainsdale’s Sean Towndrow, who shrugged off a short birdie miss on the 18th and added a 70 to his opening 69 for a share of the halfway lead with South Africa’s Kyle McClatchie in the Flogas Irish Amateur Open at Royal County Down.
The towering England international, a semi-finalist in the British Amateur at Royal Portrush three years ago, was more than pleased to join McClatchie in a one-stroke lead over the field on three-under par 139.
“It’s good, it’s nice, it’s been a while since I’ve been up there,” said 26-year old Towndrow, who had three birdies and two bogeys on another benign day at the Newcastle links.
“I had last year off with lymphatic cancer. Hopefully, I’m all clear though I’m still having a few tests. It’s about nine months since I finished treatment, so I just got back into golf in early February.
“It just came out of nowhere. I was just feeling a bit tired towards the end of 2015 and then I got diagnosed in early 2016.
“I had a lot of tiredness. I had a massive pain in my chest because I had a tumour in the front of my chest — I struggled to breathe and at the time struggled to walk further than 10 yards.
“About six weeks later, they diagnosed me. Golf has a different meaning now. I’m just trying to get my fitness back, so the more rounds I can play, the better.”
McClatchie added a level par 71 to his opening 68 to set the target but the leaders are just one stroke clear of Scotland’s Christopher MacLean (67), Belvoir Park’s Marc Norton (68) and Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe (70).
Castle’s Alex Gleeson made just one bogey in an impressive 69 to share sixth on one-under par with Scotland’s George Bloor (70) and Kinsale’s John Murphy, who raced around in a best-of-the-week, five under par 66 in the first group of the day before his mother drove him back to Maynooth University to sit an economics exam in the afternoon.
“I requested the first tee-time today because I’ve an exam at 3.30pm so it’s not ideal but some things have to be done,” said the Paddy Harrington Scholarship student after making an eagle and six birdies.
Former Challenge Tour professional O’Keeffe, who was reinstated as an amateur last year, believes he can win his first big title after he holed a pair of 25 footers for birdie on the last two greens for a second successive 70.
“I do believe I can win,” the 35-year old said. “I’ve been working hard over the winter with Noel Fox so my swing is coming together.
“I also had a nice putting tip from the Munster coach Fred Twomey after I missed everything I looked at in the practice round and sent him a few videos on Wednesday night.
“I’ve also got a much calmer outlook on golf these days, which is helping me be a more patient golfer.”
The top 50 and ties — currently all those on five-over 147 — will make the 54-hole cut tonight.