Veteran Pierse into last 16 at Lahinch
Former Walker Cup player meets O’Rourke next in South of Ireland championship
Arthur Pierse of Tipperary made it into the last 16 of the South of Ireland championship at Lahinch yesterday as he saw off Forrest Little’s Caolan Kennedy 3 and 2 before seeing off Munster interprovincial John Hickey of Cork on the 18th in the afternoon. Photograph: Paul Thomas/R&A via Getty Images
On a day when title favourites Pat Murray and Chris Selfridge bit the dust, old gunslinger Arthur Pierse trained his sights on another young gun, not to mention an old adversary in the Clare Coast Hotels-sponsored event at Lahinch.
The 63-year old former Walker Cup player from Tipperary famously lost to Mick Morris on the 18th in a controversial last four clash in 1980 when he discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag as he played Klondyke.
Elusive finalJohn Hickey
“I’ve been coming here since around 1972,” said the 2007 British Seniors Amateur Open champion after getting up and down from bunkers at the 17th and 18th to beat Hickey one up.
“Some of those kids, their fathers weren’t event born.”
One of the best ball-strikers to emerge from the amateur game here, Pierse never found Lahinch to his liking until the recent changes were carried out.
“You could hit it anywhere and just freewheel your way around – there was no rough,” he said. “But you get a reward for hitting it straight here now. In fact, I didn’t miss a fairway in the 34 holes I played today.”
Can he dare to dream of victory at the age of 63?
“Tom Watson had no right to nearly win the British Open either,” he said with a grin. “Can I got on? If my legs are okay tomorrow, I can.”
As for his putting, his Achilles’ Heel in years gone by, he said: “I am better on the short ones now. If I could have putted 30 years ago the way I putt from five feet now, I would have won a lot more than I did.”
Pierse’s victories were relatively stress-free compared to some of the later matches, especially in the bottom half.
Esker Hills’ Alan Lowry had to produce some short game wizardry worthy of his older brother Shane to battle his way into the last 16. The 21-year-old was one down to Delgany’s Simon Bryan playing the 17th but holed a 12-footer for par to stay one down and then made a miraculous up and down for birdie at the 18th, where he was stymied by the wall and had to improvise a swing.
After almost chipping in, he looked on as Bryan missed from 10 feet for the match and then holed clutch putts at the 19th and 20th to stay alive before closing out the match with a solid par at the 21st after his opponent bunkered his approach.
O’Rourke will now face Ballybunion’s Ed Stack, who beat Ulster talent Jordan Hood one up, with the winner facing Limerick’s Michael O’Kelly or Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly in today’s quarter-finals.
Knightly beat international and reigning North of Ireland champion Selfridge 4 and 3.