Former professional Paul O'Hanlon takes a four-stroke lead into today's final two rounds of the CityNorth Hotel East of Ireland Amateur Open and if anyone knows what he's feeling, it's wily Jim Carvill.
The 50-year old from Warrenpoint won the East as a reinstated amateur 11 years ago and having led by five with 36 holes to play, he reckons his 32-year-old Kildare counterpart will be almost impossible to beat if he manages his game well.
"If he shoots 71-71, he hacks up," Carvill said of O'Hanlon, who is four ahead of Portmarnock's Jack Pierse (71-68) and County Louth's Gerard Dunne (67-72) on nine under par after adding a 70 to his opening 65.
“If he shoots 72-72, he will probably still hack up.”
Carvill opened 70-65 in 2005 and added rounds of 71 and 74 to win by three on eight under par. And having played for three years on the Europro Tour and other mini tours before regaining his amateur status at the end of 2014, a player of the quality of 2008 Irish Close champion and Willie Gill Award winner O’Hanlon knows how to plot his way to victory.
“Tomorrow? I still have no clue,” the leader said at a pristine but defenceless County Louth where the effect of firm greens is cancelled out by light rough and little breeze. “It could be a house of cards still, lads. And I haven’t played 36 holes in a day since 2008. That’s a good point.”
Four birdies and two bogeys added up to a fine 70 for the former Curragh player, now at Carton House. And as a trainee accountant, he’s aware the numbers game favours him even if he is unsure what strategy to adopt.
“It’s nice to roll back the years a bit but even still, the standard of golf I am playing is probably far better than the standard I ever played at, which is bizarre,” he said after he followed a bogey at the 17th with a tidy chip and putt birdie from pin high left of the 18th. “I haven’t had a swing thought in about two years. I care, but I don’t care that much. I am just in a good place.”
Local hero Dunne shot a 72 to get to within four of O’Hanlon on five under par before being joined by 25-year old Portmarnock talent Pierse. Starting on the 10th, Pierse bogeyed three in a row from the 11th before covering the nine holes from the 16th to the sixth in seven under par for a 68.
With South Africa’s Noel Anderson (69), Belvoir Park’s Gareth Lappin (70), Slieve Russell’s Theo Coffey (71) and Co Sligo and Carton House veteran Gary McDermott (71) all tied fourth, six shots behind on three under, the title is very much in O’Hanlon’s hands.