South of Ireland Amateur Championship: Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe keeps dreams alive with late rally

Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly must face clubmate and leading qualifier Max Kennedy in the third round
South of Ireland Amateur Championship: Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe keeps dreams alive with late rally

Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly must face clubmate and leading qualifier Max Kennedy in the third round

Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe kept his dreams of victory alive in the Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open and earned an extra few hours sleep when he cruised into the last 16 with a late late show at Lahinch.

The former Irish Amateur Open winner beat Athenry’s David Kitt 2&1 before seeing off North West Kyle McCarron 6&5 in fading light at 10pm after a thunderstorm led to a three-and-a-half our delay on the Clare coast.

“Sleep is a premium in my life at the moment,” said the 39-year-old strength and conditioning instructor, who was a semi-finalist in last week’s North of Ireland.

“I was playing lovely and he didn’t bring it up (the light) so we just kept going and I finished it on 13-under.” The Cork man made five birdies and was five-under par for the holes played and he was pleased with his progress after being three-under for 17 holes in his win over former Irish Close runner-up Kitt.

There are still six of the 16 second round matches to be completed when play resumes at 7am on Saturday but there are already some intruiging third round clashes in store.

Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly must face clubmate and leading qualifier Max Kennedy in the third round of the weather-delayed Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch

The Dubliner, 33, is on a career break from PwC so he can try to achieve his goal of winning an amateur Major and he’s on track after he followed a 4&3 win over Grange’s Jake Whelan with a hard-fought one-up win over another clubmate in AIG Irish Close champion and close friend Hugh Foley on the 18th as the open draw threw up some fratricidal encounters.

“He was one of my best mates and we are really close,” Knightly said. “Honestly he is just an amazing player. Hugh was really tough to beat and Max will be the same tomorrow.”

Foley led the qualifiers when the South was last played two years ago but while he had Knightly two down after six, he had to bend the knee at the 18th.

Knightly, who lost to another Royal Dublin man and close pal Darragh Coghlan in the semi-finals in 2014, won the seventh and 11th to square the match, then lost the 12th to a birdie but birdied the 13th from long range.

Foley levelled with a par at the 15th but Knightly got up and down for par at the 17th to edge in front, then hit a two-iron to 30 feet at the 18th to set up a birdie that could not be beaten.

“Obviously it’s not ideal to be playing against your club mates all the time but everyone in the club is playing well, which is nice, so it’s nice for people to play in the latter stages of a championship.”

As for the prospect of facing Kennedy, who has just returned from his freshman year at the University of Louisville, he expects another tough match.

“Max is an awesome player,” he said. “I was really impressed with him when he came back from the States. He’s really sharp and he has a lot of shots but I hadn’t seen it before. He seems like he’s gone to the next level and it shows in his scores.

“You don’t shoot 11 under par for two rounds without playing well.”

Kennedy, 19, beat Elm Park’s Jake Foley 4&3 but was all square with Carton House’s Eoin Sullivan when a thunderstorm forced play to be suspended for three and a half hours.

He regrouped after the weather delay and claimed a two-hole win but now faces another tough match in Knightly.

“He’s doing well and he’s taking a bit of time off work this game so I’m not going to take him for granted,” Kennedy said. “You still have to play good golf to win matches around here.”

Bray’s Gary Rochford took a big scalp when he beat Carton House international Keith Egan, the beaten finalist back in 2019, by 2&1 before falling 4&3 to Connacht Strokeplay and North of Ireland champion Alex Maguire from Laytown and Bettystown.

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