In an era when amateur golf is dominated almost entirely by young men with their sights set on a lucrative career in the professional game, it should be next to impossible for a 65 year-old to set his sights on winning a major championship.
And yet, that possibility remains very much alive after the manner in which Arthur Pierse cruised into the last 16 of the 115th South of Ireland at Lahinch last night.
Pierse, a Walker Cup player as long ago as 1983, confines most of his activities these days to senior golf.
He has been playing the “South” since 1972 without ever getting beyond the semi-finals. And he wouldn’t be here at all were it not for the fact that his twin brother, Gerry, is this year’s captain of Lahinch and who repaid the favour yesterday by acting as his caddie.
“If the legs keep going and the adrenalin keeps pumping, you never know what might happen,” said Pierse.
“Every part of my game seems to be in good shape. I missed only one fairway in my two games today, I hit my irons well, got up and down from sand when I needed to and maybe more important than anything, putted the way I wanted. I didn’t miss the four footers that have been my undoing through much of my career.”
Pierse began the day with a 3 and 2 win over Eugene Smith, a Paddy Harrington Scholarship student at Maynooth and a member of the Leinster team that recently won the Interprovincial Championship at Fota Island.
If that came as a surprise to many, it was nothing compared to what lay in wait in the afternoon when the opposition was provided by 2014 Irish Close champion and 2015 North of Ireland champion John Ross Galbraith.
At 22, he is a seasoned Irish international and rated a player of massive potential. Pierse was exactly three times his age.
“I didn’t know anything of that,” said Pierse.
“I don’t meet any of these young fellows, they come and go, many of them, probably too many, turn professional and we don’t hear about them much any more after that.”
It was a fine contest with both men winning just a hole each before Pierse broke the deadlock when he hit a majestic four iron into the heart of the 15th green for a winning par four.
On reaching the tee at the short 16th, Pierse turned to his twin brother and caddie and stated: “This is the most important shot of the day. Joe Carr often told me, when you have the honour at a par three, make sure you hit the putting surface.”
The advice was duly taken on board as the ball finished within 25 feet of the hole, whereas Galbraith found sand and that effectively ended the contest.
Arthur now meets Daniel Holland, a Leinster interprovincial whose Castle clubmate Alex Gleeson ended the hopes of Pierse’s nephews Robbie, from Grange, and Jack, from Portmarnock, from progressing, both having come through the qualifying rounds in remarkable fashion.
In the morning, Gleeson, a current international, eliminated Robbie by 2 and 1 before getting home at the 16th against Jack in the afternoon.
Gleeson is favoured for semi-final action tomorrow from the bottom half of the draw where he may well be joined by the talented Tramore golfer, Robin Dawson, who won a fine match against former champion Robbie Cannon on the 18th.
But many also fancy the prospects of Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell, a man with has several big title wins to his credit.
Two major figures in the current amateur scene, Close champion Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) and Rowan Lester (Hermitage) are still standing their ground at the other end of the draw.
However, 2010 winner John Greene (Portmarnock) demonstrated that his game remains in very good shape as he came from behind to overtake the highly rated Paul McBride and win at the 20th.
Leading qualifier Jake Whelan (Newlands) is still standing his ground along with recently crowned North of Ireland champion Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo).
All have their supporters for semi-final action — provided, of course, that Arthur Pierse doesn’t continue his giant-killing acts.
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