Arthur Pierse has been coming to Lahinch for more than 40 years in search of the Clare Coast Hotels South of Ireland Championship.
In all of that time, he has reached the semi-finals “four or five times” but never once got to the final. The nearest was 1980 when he was leading Mick Morris only to be penalised two holes after discovering a 15th club in his bag.
However, even at the age of 63 and with everything pointing to his best days being long behind him, the Tipperary man is still standing his ground going into this morning’s fifth round with his confidence on a high and a clearly held belief that he can defy the odds and go all the way in this, the 113th “South”.
Nevertheless, he smiled easily at the prospect and quipped that “even the fathers of some of the guys I play these days weren’t born when I played seriously”.
Be that as it may, Pierse has always been regarded as one of the finest strikers of a golf ball in Irish amateur golf and during his career he captured the East of Ireland Championship in 1979, the West of Ireland in 1980 and ’82 and the North of Ireland in 1987 and represented Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup in 1983.
He demonstrated the point in outstanding fashion yesterday when overcoming Cork’s John Hickey, a member of the victorious Munster team in last week’s Interprovincial Championship, on the 18th.
Pierse gained a crucial advantage at the short 16th where Hickey three-putted but had to cope with a bad lie in a bunker at the next where, he stated, “some fella never raked the sand”. But he got it out to three feet for a half. This part of Pierse’s game was tested once again at the 18th where Hickey played a superb 50-yard pitch to the side of the hole for a conceded birdie only for the Tipp man to splash out from the front trap right of the green to about five feet and confidently hole the putt for the match.
“If I could have putted 30 years ago from that distance the way I do now, I would have won a lot more”, Pierse mused. “Is it realistic for me to keep going? Why not? My legs will be fine in the morning and I expect they’ll be okay in the afternoon.
“This course never really suited me over the years but it’s different now. It’s a great course, you get the reward for hitting fairways as against the time you could hit it where you liked and just freewheel your way around. You’re off the fairway now and you’re in trouble and I didn’t miss one today.
“I played well this morning and for 10 holes in the afternoon when I got a little tired and a small bit scrappy and had to fight a little bit.”
He now meets Conor O’Rourke, a new Leinster Interpro from Naas. Also safely through to the fifth round from the top end of the draw are recent past champions Stephen Walsh and Robbie Cannon. Late last evening, though, the bottom half threw up some great matches and quite a few shocks. Alan Lowry, the 21-year-old brother of European Tour star, Shane, won a tremendous battle at the 21st against Simon Bryan of Delgany.
And Ian O’Rourke, formerly of Cork Golf Club and now Royal Dublin, claimed a very notable scalp when he defeated 2012 champion Pat Murray, a teammate on Munster’s successful Interprovincial side last week.
Another keen contest went all the way to the 18th where O’Rourke claimed the spoils while his next opponent, Ballybunion’s Ed Stack, earned major plaudits for recovering from one down with two to play to edge out Jordan Hood from Galgorm Castle on the final green.
Limerick’s Michael O’Kelly, the 1993 runner-up, disposed of Ulster Interpro Tiarnan McLarnan and his considerable degree of local knowledge is sure to be of considerable benefit as he takes on Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightley who last night ended the double hopes of Chris Selfridge, the North of Ireland champion for the second successive year.
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