Defending champion Pat Murray bows out of South of Ireland championship
Veteran Arthur Pierse says GUI’s prior naming of Home International team bad for oldest provincial championship event
Defending champion Pat Murray of Limerick bowed out of this year’s South of Ireland Championship when he was beaten on the 19th hole of his fourth round match by Royal Dublin’s Bryan McSweeney. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill
Former Walker Cup star Arthur Pierse joined the chorus on voices calling on the Golfing Union to do something to improve the field at the South of Ireland as he went down 4 and 3 to Knock’s Nicky Grant in the fourth round at Lahinch.
On a day when defending champion Pat Murray was beaten in the 19th by Royal Dublin’s Bryan McSweeney, the 62-year old Tipperary man called on the Irish selectors to delay the naming of the team for the Home Internationals until the conclusion of Ireland’s oldest provincial championship.
“There was a time when you dare not skip the South because you wouldn’t make the Home Internationals,” the former Walker Cup player said, gesturing to the odd lone spectator.
“Now the team is picked already and I believe they need to pick it after the South. The Union needs to act.
“On a day like today, there was a time when you could have a couple of thousand people here. With nobody playing, it’s sad for the guy who wins it because it doesn’t mean as much.
“If you haven’t got the players coming here, people won’t come to watch.”
Winning the South certainly won’t feel sad for 26-year old Grant, who won his first Irish cap last year but still dreams of winning his maiden amateur “major.”
But after beating Killeen Castle’s Stephen McCarthy 5 and 3, he ended the Lahinch dream of 62-year old veteran Pierse in perfect, though blustery afternoon conditions to set up a last 16 clash with Carton House’s Colin Cunningham
“You could see he is a class act,” Grant said of Pierse, who only went to Lahinch to hone his game before he heads to Royal Aberdeen for next week’s British Seniors Open Amateur Championship, a title he won in 2007.
“I just want to win a senior tournament and while the field is not as strong as it normally is I’d still love to win it. It’s definitely a monkey I’d like to get off my back.”
The last 16 is an attractive mix of youth and experience but it doesn’t include reigning champion Murray, who was beaten by Dubliner McSweeney, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Thursday
The Limerick player had a nine-foot birdie putt at the 18th to win a match that had swung to and fro but his title defence ended at the first extra hole when he three-putted for bogey.
“I’m ecstatic,” said McSweeney, whose biggest achievement at championship level until yesterday was a top 20 finish in the East of Ireland Championship.
“I beat Daniel Holland this morning but when I saw I had Pat Murray in the fourth round I knew I was in for a tough match. In fact, he’s probably my father’s golfing hero.”
Murray wasn’t the only champion to fall on a picture perfect summer’s day with a 20 mph west wind adding to the challenge.
Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon lost 4 and 3 to Mallow’s Paul McCarthy in the morning but the Corkman exited in the afternoon 5 and 3 to Kilkenny’s Paul O’Hara.
Ardee’s Eugene Smith, who reached the semi-finals last year, beat Ross Kenny of Naas 6 and 5 and now takes on Rathmore’s Ben Best, while Royal Dublin’s Seán Ryan beat up and coming Stuart Grehan of Tullamore 4 and 3 and faces Cairndhu’s Ryan McKinstry.
County Louth’s Simon Ward, the 2006 champion, made five birdies in a 6 and 5 demolition of Royal Dublin-based Sigo man Barry Anderson and announced he will be turning professional in the autumn.