Peter O’Keeffe can become the first man since Pádraig Harrington to complete a famous double after he saw off Kinsale’s John Murphy to reach the last 16 of the AIG Irish Amateur Close at the European Club.
Harrington won the Irish Amateur Open and the Irish Close in 1995. O’Keeffe, 36, believes he’s playing well enough to add the Close title to his win in the Strokeplay at Royal County Down last year after his 3&1 win over the in-form Murphy on a day when South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty made his exit.
A one-up winner over Mourne’s Noel Crawford in round one before he came from one down after nine to beat the St Andrews Links Trophy holder on the 17th, O’Keeffe has set his sights on the double. “I’d love it,” he said.
That’s obviously in my head. I’ve been playing nicely all year, I just haven’t been getting anything out of it.
O’Keeffe won the 10th to square the match, then took the 12th to edge in front and never looked back.
“We all know John is one of the best amateur golfers at the moment so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it wasn’t,” said O’Keeffe, who believes he’s close to where he was when he won in Newcastle last year.
“I’m starting to get the same kind of feelings,” he said. “I’m really swinging it well.”
Mallow’s James Sugrue will face Portmarnock international Conor Purcell in the 16 as Rowan Lester takes on Alex Gleeson in another clash of Irish senior panellists.
There is no place for Rafferty, who fell by one hole to Killiney and Wentworth’s Eoin Leonard, who now plays Dungarvan’s Kevin Stack. A Yale sophomore and 2013 Leinster Boys champion, Leonard showed his class this summer when he came through qualifying for next week’s US Amateur at Pebble Beach.
Meanwhile, it’s home advantage for Ireland who tomorrow begin the defence of their Ladies’ Home International crown at Ballybunion against the side they dethroned last year — England.
In what was a dramatic final day at Little Aston in the West Midlands 12 months ago, Kanturk’s Mairead Martin secured the crucial half-point that bagged Ireland their first title since 2004 with a nailbiting 5-4 win to spark major celebrations.
Martin is back in the side along with Paula Grant (Lisburn) and Lurgan star Annabel Wilson.
Shannon Burke (Ballinrobe), Louise Coffey (Malone), Jessica Ross (Clandeboye), and Lauren Walsh (Castlewarden) are also in skipper Danielle McVeigh’s side.
Ireland will then go up against Wales on Thursday and Scotland on Friday with each match consisting of three foursomes and six singles.
On the same course, Ireland’s Girls will be looking to regain the title they surrendered to England last year, having ended England’s eight-year dominance in 2016.
Looking to help get the title back will be Sara Byrne (Douglas), Valerie Clancy (Killarney), Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle), Aine Donegan (Woodstock), Anna Foster (Elm Park), Nicole Joyce-Moreno (Royal Portrush), and Kate Lanigan (Hermitage), captained by Helen Jones.
Before that, Ireland’s Boys today begin their bid for a first triumph since 2013 when this year’s tournament gets going at Royal Dornoch in Scotland.
John Brady (Rosslare), Charlie Denvir (Elm Park), Aaron Marshall (Lisburn), Eoin Murphy (Dundalk), and Mark Power (Kilkenny) all return having featured 12 months ago.
They are joined by David Kitt (Athenry), Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin), Luke O’Neill (Connemara), Tom McKibbin (Holywood), Allan Hill (Athenry), and Slieve Russell’s Odhran Maguire.