Local boy Seán Flanagan harbours hope of home win in West of Ireland Open

Reigning champion Dermot McElroy aiming for back-to-back triumphs

Defending champion Dermot McElroy of Ballymena had comfortable wins over Stephen Healy and Dwayne Mallon. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Defending champion Dermot McElroy of Ballymena had comfortable wins over Stephen Healy and Dwayne Mallon. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Rory McIlroy’s presence looms large at Rosses Point but local boy Seán Flanagan is ready to step out of that shadow by becoming the first home winner of the West of Ireland Amateur Open since 1950.

The 20-year old County Sligo player recalls watching McIlroy give a clinic before one of his West wins and standing slack-jawed as the young Holywood maestro showed off his skills.

And after leading the qualifying for the second year in a row – something McIlroy never achieved in his four appearances in the event – he can’t help but dream of seeing his name in gold letters on the board in the club foyer.

It’s something that 2005 and 2006 winner McIlroy himself mentioned in a private video message sent to the members on Sunday, apologising for missing the traditional dinner for champions of previous decades and recalling his “very fond memories of County Sligo”.

“I am very proud to be a past champion and to have my name up on the board there when you walk into the clubhouse,” McIlroy added, saying he was busy preparing for the Masters.

After coming back from two down after nine to beat Fota Island’s Sean Barry on the 18th in the morning, Flanagan took a big scalp when he defeated reigning East and South of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan by one hole in a high-quality match in the afternoon.

Grehan had to birdie the ninth just to be two down but lost the 11th to a par before birdies the 14th and 15th left him just one down with three to go.

Flanagan would not give in, however, and got up and down from sand at the 16th, holing a clutch six-footer for his par three to remain in front before safely two-putting the last for victory after Grehan had overshot the green and failed to chip in. “It would be amazing – a big goal of mine,” Flanagan said of a possible home win. “But we will take it one step at a time.”

Comfortable

Richard KnightlyDes MorganColm Campbell Jnr

In the bottom half, all eyes are on 22-year-old defending champion Dermot McElroy from Ballymena, who remains on course to become the first player since McIlroy to win back-to-back Wests.

McElroy had comfortable wins over Stephen Healy and Dwayne Mallon and will face Kinsale’s Cathal Butler, who surprised Naas’s Conor O’Rourke 2 and 1 in the second round. But he won’t have it easy if he beats Butler with the winner set to face The Island’s Kevin LeBlanc or giantkiller Stephen Brady.

County Sligo man Brady saw off North of Ireland champion John Ross Galbraith and Rathmore’s Ben Best.

As for 17-year-old LeBlanc, he won five holes in a row on Sunday morning to come back from two down at the turn to beat Hollytstown’s Stephen Kinch 3 and 2, then beat Alex Gleeson of Castle in the afternoon, holing a 20-footer for birdie across the 18th to seal an impressive, one-up victory.

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