Irish Amateur Close: ‘You’re there to qualify not to look like Tiger Woods’

Ronan Mullarney claims silver medal as nine other golfers faced playoff for final four slots

Keith Murphy ended up in a playoff for the last four spots,  progressing with Royal Portrush’s Peter Kerr, Bushfoot’s Owen Crooks and Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan. Photograph:  David Cannon/Getty Images

Keith Murphy ended up in a playoff for the last four spots, progressing with Royal Portrush’s Peter Kerr, Bushfoot’s Owen Crooks and Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

 

Few remember who led the qualifiers 12 years ago when Rory McIlroy successfully defended his crown at the European Club.

But whatever Galway’s Ronan Mullarney or Dún Laoghaire’s Keith Murphy do after today’s first round of matchplay combat, they will remember their 36-hole joust with Pat Ruddy’s links chessboard in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship.

Murphy ended up in a playoff for the last four spots in the matchplay draw as nine players tied on 12-over 154, eventually progressing with Royal Portrush’s Peter Kerr, Bushfoot’s Owen Crooks and Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan.

As for Mullarney, the 22-year old Maynooth University scholar claimed the silver medal in brilliant fashion, adding a four-under 67 to his opening 72 to by a stroke from Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell on three-under par.

Emboldened by a super, bogey-free 66 by Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe in Saturday’s opening round, he took no chances and picked off his birdies when he could – at the first, 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th – as Purcell shot a brace of 70s.

“I was looking at Peter’s score yesterday and I just thought it was the most amazing score I’d ever seen,” Mullarney said of the bogey-free 66 which the big Corkman followed with a 76 to make to share third place with Dundalk’s newly crowned South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty and Belvoir Park’s Marc Norton on level par.

“I knew the greens were soft but 66 around here I thought was brilliant. I suppose he showed me it could be done. I didn’t quite do what he did but not a million miles away.”

Respect

Mullarney birdied the first but he has such respect for The European Club, even in relatively benign conditions, that he took no chances at the terrifying 482-yard, par-four seventh, laying up with his approach before getting up and down from 50 yards for par.

“I’ll probably get some slagging for it,” added Mullarney, who bogeyed eighth but then birdied four of his last six with the highlight a three-iron to five feet at the 17th.

“The main aim, everyone will tell you, is just to quality whether that’s 64th or first . . . You’re there to qualify not to look like Tiger Woods. ”

Purcell, 21, started birdie-par-eagle and while he bogeyed the eighth, ninth and 10th to slip back to level par, he birdied the 13th and 14th and dropped just one more shot at the 16th, when he was forced to declare his ball unplayable in a bush.

“Had a bit of a hiccup, three bogeys in a row got me back to square one,” said the Dubliner, whose run to the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship and his seventh place finish in the European Amateur Championship earned him a Great Britain and Ireland call up for the St Andrews Trophy.

“But I made a few birdies on the back nine, kept it solid the whole way and never really got out of control.”

For those with long memories, the Island’s Andrew Pitcher edged out McIlroy for the silver medal in 2006 but lost to the Holywood star in the quarter-finals.

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