Gerhardsen and Hill share Irish Amateur lead after wild day at European Club

With winds gusting in Brittas Bay, average score among the field was 80.64

Nicola Gerhardsen (Breitenloo) surveys a shot during round two of the Irish Amateur Open at the European Club. Photo: Fran Caffrey/Golffile

Nicola Gerhardsen (Breitenloo) surveys a shot during round two of the Irish Amateur Open at the European Club. Photo: Fran Caffrey/Golffile

 

Swiss challenger Nicola Gerhardsen displayed the patience of Job and escapology skills of Harry Houdini to card an incredible one-over 72 in winds gusting over 30 kmph to snatch a share of the lead heading into Sunday’s final round of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open at The European Club.

The 19-year-old shares top spot with Athenry’s Allan Hill, who shot a 75 in only slightly more benign morning conditions to set the clubhouse target at two-over 144 before Gerhardsen produced one of the rounds of the week to join him on a day when the field averaged 80.64 and only one player, Tangradee’s James Hewitt, broke par with an otherworldly 70.

The European Club, which is in pristine condition, was again the main protagonist in a stiff south-westerly breeze as the field was handed a major examination of mental and technical resilience.

But Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe is relishing the challenge and the opportunity to become the first player since Pádraig Harrington in 1995 (and only the seventh in history) to complete the double of the Irish Amateur Close and Irish Amateur Open in the same season.

The 39-year-old Corkman- winner of this title in similar conditions at Royal County Down in 2017-was five-over the championship through 11 holes yesterday but birdied the 14th and 15th to card a 72 that leaves him just a shot off the lead on three-over and in the final three-ball.

“I have had a lot of success in the wind, and this is a course that is going to reward good shots,” O’Keeffe said. “I didn’t have a practice round but had a good practice session with my coach Noel Fox, working on ball flight, and it’s paying off. So I am looking forward to another windy one tomorrow. It is all about patience and attitude here. It’s about acceptance and patience. All the clichés.”

Nobody has shown more patience than Gerhardsen, who double-bogeyed the sixth (traditionally the seventh) in Friday’s first-round and has since made three birdies and only three bogeys.

“That’s usually my strength,” said the tall, slim Swiss visitor, who first played the course on a family holiday with his father when he was 13.

“I never really have big numbers, and my short game saved me when I hit a bad shot. I played really solid golf. I kept it together and sometimes hit bad shots, but in that wind, it is important to stay totally focused.

“Bad shots are going to happen, but my acceptance was very good today. It’s just amazing to be leading and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.

“I played this course with my dad on holiday when I was 13 and it would be amazing to win on this course. What a beautiful course with great memories. I hope I get it done tomorrow.”

Playing in the worst of the wind in the penultimate group, he birdied the first, then reeled off 10 pars in a row before limiting the damage to bogeys at the par-three 12th and 15th coming home in the worst of the weather.

“This course is mentally tough. Every single hole is a challenge, and you just need to be mentally focused. The mental game makes the difference here.

“I knew I was going to make mistakes, but my focus was not to allow the mistakes to get me down. I just tried to stay in play off the tee, hit the green, take two putts. My short game has been pretty good this week. When I miss the green, I am pretty confident in my short game and that takes the pressure off the long game a little bit.”

Canada’s Brendan McDougall lies solo fourth on five-over on his links golf debut, while 23-year-old Englishman Kipp Popert, who has cerebral palsy and ranks number one in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability, shot a brilliant 72 to share fifth place on six-over, just four shots off the pace, as exactly 50 players made the cut for the final round on 17-over 159.

Hill has been a stalwart for Maynooth University for the past three years and the 21-year-old former Boys international was thrilled to set the clubhouse target.

“I was five-over through seven or eight holes today, so I was very happy to claw it back”, the red-haired Galwayman said after his round. “If conditions are like today, you will never know what could happen with a solid round.”

As for Popert, who is allowed to use a buggy because of his disability, victory would be a milestone for disabled golf.

“It would be pretty cool,” the 23-year old Englishman confessed. “Growing up with cerebral palsy, I could never hit it very far until I had my operation, so the only way I could compete was by getting the most out of the ball in terms of controlling spin and flight.

“I’ve putted well, but when it’s windy, I control my ball flight and spin really well, so my proximity to the hole has been very good.”

The shot of the day went to Scotland’s Cormac Sharpe. A hole-in-one on the treacherous 12th came after he almost got another on the fifth.

“I was struggling up to the 12th. It was all about getting on the green. I didn’t even see it go in, but I heard the people at the green go mental. I was in shock when it went in.”

As for Tangaree’s Hewitt, the only player to break par on the day, after opening with an 85, the Ulster Interprovincial was thrilled to make the cut with four shots to spare.

“I didn’t know where the ball was going yesterday, but I found something out there today,” he said. “The 85 yesterday didn’t feel as bad as it was. I tried to make level par today and to make the cut. In the circumstances, it’s one of my best rounds of the year.”

Scores after round two of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, The European Club (Par 71)

144 N Gerhardsen (Breitenloo) 72 72, A Hill (Athenry) 69 75;

145 P O’Keeffe (Douglas) 73 72;

147 B McDougall (Canada) 72 75;

148 K Popert (Wildernesse) 76 72, S Goldenring (MGA) 75 73, H SMITH (The Rayleigh Club) 74 74, C Gugler (GCC Zurich) 70 78;

149 E Papineau (Canada) 72 77, R Lindsay (Turnberry) 70 79;

150 A Edwards-Hill (Chelmsford) 74 76, K Egan (Carton House) 73 77;

151 H Foley (Royal Dublin) 76 75, J Claridge (Enville) 72 79;

152 J Fox (Portmarnock) 79 73, C Graham (Blairgowrie) 75 77, T Matthews (Aldersey Green) 74 78, R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 73 79, J Lyons (Galway) 72 80, E Dimayuga (Walton Heath) 72 80, C Harkin (Letterkenny) 70 82;

153 S Walker (Roscommon) 78 75, P Ulmrich (GC Mannheim-Viernheim 1930 e.V. ) 78 75, G Ward (Kinsale) 77 76, T Lecomte (Evian Resort) 75 78, D Shiel (Powerscourt) 74 79;

154 M Boucher (Carton House) 78 76, E Murphy (Dundalk) 74 80, P Coughlan (Castleknock) 74 80, T Higgins (Roscommon) 71 83;

155 J Hewitt (Tandragee) 85 70, R Cheetham (Pedham Place Golf Centre) 74 81;

156 D Kitt (Athenry) 79 77, G Cullen (The Links Portmarnock) 75 81, M McClean (Malone) 72 84;

157 S Flanagan (Portmarnock) 78 79, J Murphy (Douglas) 78 79, L Nolan (Galway) 78 79, G Dunne (Co. Louth) 74 83;

158 J Hill (Galgorm Castle) 78 80;

159 P Keeling (Roganstown) 83 76, T Randolph (MGA) 81 78, S Ryan (Royal Dublin) 79 80, S Siltala (Kankaisten Golf) 78 81, S Cave (The Belfry) 77 82, G Holland (Southport & Ainsdale) 75 84, J McDonnell (Forrest Little) 75 84, S McLoughlin (Co. Sligo) 75 84, A Ryan (Thurles) 74 85, A Marshall (Lisburn) 74 85.

Missed cut

160 D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) 82 78, M Mullen (Rosslare) 80 80, S Keeling (Roganstown) 80 80, A Mulholland (Castlerock) 79 81;

161 A Trenta (Lägern) 85 76, J Waaralinna (Pickala) 83 78, E Sullivan (Carton House) 82 79, R Brazill (Naas) 81 80, D McDonnell Jnr. (Monkstown) 75 86;

162 N Mäki-Petäjä (Vuosaari Golf Helsinki) 80 82, A Hickey (Galway Bay) 77 85, A Challoner (Galway Bay) 77 85;

163 J Harvey (The Kendleshire) 77 86, J Whelan (Grange) 76 87, J Cleary (Elm Park) 75 88, D McCormack (Corrstown) 75 88, G Lappin (Belvoir Park) 75 88;

164 J Skeet (Royal of Belgium) 78 86, M Scowsill (Woodbridge) 78 86;

165 C Sharpe (Blairgowrie) 86 79, C Butler (Kinsale) 86 79, J Prutthaweewat (Bern) 78 87;

166 G O’Neill (Malahide) 83 83, M Deasy (Douglas) 81 85, A Kiernan (Forrest Little) 80 86;

167 N Hearns (Mountrath) 87 80;

168 R Muir (Kilmarnock (Barassie)) 86 82, A Benson (West Lothian) 85 83, P McKeever (Castle) 83 85, M Shiel (Galway Bay) 81 87, J Berry (Doncaster) 79 89;

169 A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 82 87;

172 T Plunkett (Crover House) 90 82;

WD 158 C Rafferty (Dundalk) 76 82;

NR 78 D Goldstein (MGA);

RTD 81 J Jämsä (Pickala);

NR 82 S McDermott (Slieve Russell);

NR 75 R Cannon (Balbriggan);

RTD 79 J Rackard (Enniscorthy).

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