Teenagers Olivia Costello and Beth Coulter will compete in the semi-finals of the AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship in Ballybunion.
The duo will be joined by Shannon Burke and Anna Foster after all four came through two matches on Saturday, to be the last players standing ahead of Sunday’s finale.
13-year-old Costello defeated Mairead Martin in the morning, before a 2&1 win over 2004 champion Deirdre Smith to book her place in that last four.
“My aim for the week was to qualify for the matchplay, but the past two days have been really exciting. I’m just going out and enjoying myself without the pressure”, the Roscommon golfer said after her win over Smith.
“I played solid golf today. I’m playing the course, as if it’s a stroke play event. I can’t be worried about what my opponent is doing, and I just keep focusing on my own game.”
Top seed Beth Coulter safely came through Saturday’s action with a 4&3 win over Emma Fleming and 2&1 victory against Valerie Clancy.
“There were two of the toughest matches I’ve ever played”, a relieved Coulter admitted. “My match was tighter with Emma than it looked, and the quality of my match with Valerie was brilliant.
“All of the pressure was on me in the early matches, but I’ve started to relax. It’s all about playing the person in front of you.”
Ballinrobe’s Shannon Burke advanced with wins over Caitlin Shippam and Sara Byrne on Saturday, to reach the semi-finals.
“I struggled in qualifying on Thursday, so delighted to get to Sunday, Burke revealed after her quarter-final win.
“My game has been up and down in recent weeks. My focus isn’t on golf fully anymore, and I’m just going out and enjoying it. It brings an added freedom.”
Elm Park’s Anna Foster came through Saturday’s matches, with wins over Kate Lanigan and Katie Poots. She hopes her good run continues on Sunday.
“I’ve come in under the radar, I feel. I’ve had some tough matches. The wind was similar to Thursday, but blew in the opposite direction. It felt like a totally different course today.
“It’s all about staying patient tomorrow and focusing on one shot at a time.”
In the Ita Wallace Plate, 2018 champion Leah Temple Lang won the title for a second time, defeating Molly O’Hara on the 20th hole.
“I’m honoured to win it. I didn’t have a great day in qualifying, but the Plate gave me an opportunity to refocus”, Temple Lang said moments after her win.
“It’s a great thing to have my name now on a Perpetual trophy for a second time. It feels like adding my little mark on history.”
Sunday’s semi-finals tee off at 8am, with the final set to start in the early afternoon.
Meanwhile, England’s Laird Shepherd produced a staggering comeback to win the 126th Amateur Championship amid emotional scenes at Nairn.
Shepherd amazingly fought back from eight down after 17 holes of the 36-hole final to beat compatriot Monty Scowsill on the second extra hole.
The 23-year-old, who worked in a Tesco call centre during lockdown, was in tears after securing the victory which brings with it a place in next month’s Open Championship and the Masters and US Open in 2022.
“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” Shepherd said. “To come back from eight down through 17 holes, I mean I was honestly more concerned about not making an embarrassing record-breaking defeat.
“Monty played so good in the morning, so composed, and I didn’t really have my game. To turn it around was unbelievable.
“The tears are probably for the tough times I’ve had over the last few years. It’s never nice as an athlete when you feel like you are going backwards, like I was.”
Shepherd, who had to win each of the last four holes in regulation to keep the match alive, added: “I can’t describe how I felt coming down the last four holes but I was in a calm place. In the morning, I was all over the place and was more concerned about being sick on live TV.
“I feel for Monty, he is a mate of mine. He didn’t give it away, he really didn’t. He holed greats putts on the 34th and the 35th to make me hole mine.”
Scowsill, whose putt to win on the 36th hole caught the edge of the hole and lipped out, said: “It’s really tough to take.
“I was in command all the way, really. I finished poorly and Laird finished very well, to be fair to him. That’s golf.
“I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I just didn’t hit the shots when I needed to on the back nine. It happens. It was my morning, it was his afternoon.”
AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship - Matchplay (Round 2)
Beth Coulter beat Emma Fleming 4&3
Rachel Thompson lost to Valerie Clancy 2&1
Sara Byrne beat Jan Browne 6&5
Caitlin Shippam lost to Shannon Burke 5&4
Aine Donegan lost to Deirdre Smith 5&4
Mairead Martin lost to Olivia Costello 4&2
Emma O’Driscoll lost to Katie Poots 21st hole
Kate Lanigan lost to Anna Foster 2&1
AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship - Matchplay (Quarter-Finals)
Beth Coulter beat Valerie Clancy 2&1
Sara Byrne lost to Shannon Burke 3&2
Deirdre Smith lost to Olivia Costello 2&1
Katie Poots lost to Anna Foster 5&3
Ita Wallace Plate - Matchplay (Semi-Finals)
Charlie Maxwell lost to Molly O’Hara w/o
Leah Temple Lang beat Emma Gilmore 3&2
Ita Wallace Plate - Matchplay (Final)
Molly O’Hara lost to Leah Temple Lang 20th hole