Family dynasties claiming the limelight in the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch are nothing new.
And another sprang to prominence yesterday when an event sponsored by club captain Gerry Pierse of Pierse Motors, Tipperary, featured remarkable performances by three other members of the famous golfing clan.
Gerry’s twin brother, Arthur, the former Walker Cup star and long regarded as one of golf’s finest ball strikers, shot a total of 148 to finish a comfortable four strokes inside the cut-off qualifying mark for this morning’s first match play round — not bad for a 65 year-old who even himself thought his best years were behind him.
Then it was the turn of nephew Robbie (son of Morgan, a one-time noted rugby player and no mean golfer himself) to defy the odds. An opening 82 seemed to have left him with little chance of making it — yesterday he shot a two under par 70 to qualify on the cut mark. And if that wasn’t enough, Robbie’s brother Jack, also came through by bringing in a 69 containing five birdies in a homeward run of 32 to offset a first round 79.
Jake Whelan, the surprise leader on four under par 68 after the first qualifier, again displayed highly commendable qualities of resolve and skill yesterday to claim the leading qualifier’s silver medal with a six under par total of 138.
The 21 year-old from Newlands added a 70 to his opening 68 to finish one ahead of the fast-finishing Mallow 21 year-old Paul McCarthy, Paul McBride (Island) and Alex Gleeson (Castle). Best individual round over the two rounds came from 22 year-old Marc Nolan (Delgany) who included seven birdies in yesterday’s 67.
The last couple of days have essentially been all about getting among the leading 64 who go forward to today’s match play rounds. The cut came last night on eight over 152, a mark on which only Robbie Pierse and Ryan Berkeley went through. Most of the more fancied players with the exception of last year’s runner-up Colin Fairweather prevailed, setting the scene for some tremendous matches over the next three days.
Jake Whelan got off to a nervous start yesterday when dropping a shot at the 1st and another went at the 6th. But birdies at the 4th, 5th and 8th saw him go through the turn in five under for the tournament and he was another stroke better off as he tackled the 14th. As ever, though, the Lahinch links is only waiting to rear up and bite those who waver from the straight and narrow and a double bogey six at the 14th might well have derailed his challenge. It was then Whelan displayed his mettle, carding his third two of the day at the 16th and crucially making a sixth birdie at the 18th.
Paul McCarthy is another young man who has yet to represent his province at senior level, his major achievement to date being his victory in the Munster Youths at Tralee last year. He damaged his chances of claiming the medal when going one over for yesterday’s round after 10 before his battling tendencies kicked in and he went on to pick up shots at the long 12th and 18th and the short 16th to demonstrate that he could well be a force when it comes to the man to man stuff.
Paul McBride, a student at the famous Wake Forest college in North Carolina, led the qualifiers last year and went very close again on this occasion. The 20 year-old, probably remains the man they all have to beat as he bids to shake off the memory of his 20th hole defeat in the semi-final of the British Amateur Championship in June.
A few players who had given themselves a little work to do after a shaky opening round on Wednesday hit back yesterday in impressive fashion and nobody more so than John Greene (Portmarnock), the 2010 champion. He looked to be on the way out after starting with a 79 but he improved by 10 shots yesterday and survived in style.
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