Dawson keeps on course for shot at Close

Tramore’s Robin Dawson remains on course for his maiden championship success after he battled winds gusting up to 40km/h to reach the last 16 of the AIG Irish Amateur Close at Galway.

Dawson keeps on course for shot at Close

The flame-haired international beat two Galwaymen to set up a third round clash with Bushfoot’s Owen Crooks, defeating Aodan Comerford by one hole and Mikey Burke 3 and 2.

Dawson fell to Alex Gleeson in the third round last year but there will be no repeat of that clash in Galway after the defending champion was beaten 5 and 4 by Salthill man Ronan Mullarney, whose local knowledge proved invaluable.

Mullarney can become the first home winner of the ‘Close’ since Eddie Power triumphed in Tramore 30 years ago, though the 21-year old now faces a tough third round showdown with the in-form Dundalk international, Caolan Rafferty.

“I was just one-over par,” Gleeson said, shaking his head as he fell to an impressive Mullarney on the 14th “I know where to go and where not to go,” said Mullarney, who was an estimated four-under par in high winds and driving rain. “With some of the pins out there today, local knowledge could have been worth two holes.

“There is something comforting about knowing where to go and where not to go.”

Four up after eight holes, Mullarney saw Gleeson chip in for birdie at the ninth to reduce to deficit to just three holes.

But he then birdied the 10th from 10 feet to go four up again, halved the 11th in pars and the 12th and 13th in birdies before closing out the match on the 14th.

“I’ve had stars and NBs beside the Close in the calendar,” confessed Mullarney, who lives 10 minutes from the course. “I’ve been looking forward to this week.

“It would mean a lot to win this here, but there is a long way to go. I am looking forward to the next couple of days, and there is a lot of support out there.”

Rafferty came back from one down with four to play to beat Naas’ Jonathan Yates by one hole and hopes he’ll be refreshed today after a tough week in the Home Internationals, where he was Ireland’s top scorer.

“Straight home to bed,” Rafferty said. “It was an absolute slog out there today with that weather. There was no let up all afternoon.”

Asked about facing local favourite Mullarney today, Rafferty joked: “He has to be taken out by someone!

“At the start of the week, my game was a wee bit iffy, but it is starting to come around. A good night’s sleep tonight will get me ready for tomorrow.”

Warrenpoint’s Jamie Fletcher is looking forward to dipping his toes in at the deep end again after reaching the quarter-finals two years ago. A part-time swimming instructor, the former Boys international beat clubmate Colm Campbell 2 and 1 to set up a last 16 clash with Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley, the recent winner of the Father & Son Invitational at Waterville.

Leading qualifier Peter Kerr from Royal Portrush fell by 2 and 1 to Co Sligo’s Cian Feeney in the second round.

But the 20-year old from Rosses Point will have his work cut out against Grange’s Robbie Pierse, who beat Dromoland’s Brian Shally 8 and 7 before seeing off Mountrath’s Niall Hearns 3 and 2.

A nephew of former Walker Cup player Arthur Pierse, the 24-year old is hoping to win some bragging rights among his relations after some near misses this year.

His older brother Jack lost in the final of the West before he finished second to Reece Black in the “East” in June.

“Until one of us wins one, second place is not worth much when Arthur’s in the family, to be honest,” Pierse joked.

“My godmother (Arthur’s sister, Gráinne) has these antique spoons and she gave Jack one for coming second in the West and she gave me one for coming second in the East. She used to give Arthur antiques when he won. She said we’re not getting any more until we win one!”

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