Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Walker Cup pair Nolan and McClean tee up weekend classic in Sligo – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Liam Nolan and Matthew McClean will take a two-shot lead into the weekend of the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.

Both players are tied on eight-under-par after second rounds of 68 and have opened a gap ahead of Berehaven’s Joe O’Neill while first round leader Gavin Tiernan is a shot further back in fourth.

Nolan and McClean have gone toe to toe over the first 36 holes at County Sligo Golf Club and both are where they want to be as they hunt their first Irish Amateur titles and first championships on home soil having previously won abroad.

“We’re still only halfway through but I played some lovely golf over the last two days, just bring a lot of those thoughts into the weekend and keep pushing on,” said Nolan who is seven-under for the first seven holes this week including an eagle on the par-4 3rd on Friday.

“I hit a lovely 5-iron in there from 230, ran it up and holed a nice 25-footer. Everyone knows on this course, it’s important to take advantage of the first few holes, two nice par fives and it gets trickier coming in but I was able to hold on a bit better today.”

While Nolan has laid the foundation for his score early on, McClean had to be patient in round two. Having turned in level-par 36 the Malone man burst into life with back-to-back birdies to open his back nine.

He followed up a bogey on 14 with two terrific approach shots to 16 and 18 which set up two closing birdies to propel him alongside his Walker Cup teammate.

“Happy with the scoring. Today was tricker, the wind was stronger than yesterday so it was probably a couple of shots harder. Left a few soft ones out there but grabbed a few on the way in,” said McClean.

“The last five are the defence of the course in this wind. One over the last five is normally pretty good but playing them in one-under is great. Hit it close on 16 which is normally a tough par-3, made par on 17 and thankfully tolled one in on 18 from ten feet.”

Galway’s Nolan admitted he was feeling fatigued coming down the stretch as seven months of no competitive golf began to catch up with him, but four closing pars saw him home unscathed.

“It was tough coming in. I had my head down trying to grind out pars, the swing wasn’t as good on the back nine but considering my position of not playing competitive golf I did pretty well coming in this evening.

“Me and Matt fed off each other with lots of birdies to be had and we are really enjoying it.”

Looking to upstage the A-listers at the top will be Cork man O’Neill who briefly led during round two on six-under after a 68.

The Berehaven man made his move early on Friday with three birdies in a row from the 4th and a bogey on 16 was just his third dropped shot of the week so far.

“Two very solid rounds of golf, the putter was very hot yesterday, struck the ball nicely over the two days, not out of position too much but delighted with the scores, nice to back up the first round.

“Keeping the bogeys off the card is massive. It’s hard to keep the ball out of trouble here so when you are in it you need to take your medicine. Bogeys are easy to come by but you are trying to keep the big numbers off the card especially from 14 and on.”

County Louth’s Tiernan carded nine closing pars to back up his 65 with a solid 72 to lie just three back before he headed back to the books in preparation for his leaving cert.

Local hopes will be carried into the weekend by County Sligo’s TJ Ford who carded a level-par 71 to sit five back on three-under alongside Welshman Tom Matthews.

West of Ireland champion Keith Egan was five-under-par and without a bogey in 31 holes but the dropped shots came like buses and he carded three successive bogeys from the 15th to drop back to two-under with a 71 that hurt.

The Carton House is in a share of 7th with Luke Kelly, Shane McDermott, Max Weaver of Wales and Scottish pair Gregor Tait and Matthew Wilson who had the round of the day with a 67.

Sean Keeling and Hugh Foley are the big hitters who will be looking to make an early spurt on Saturday from one-over.

Despite the glorious sunshine, there was an increase in the wind and the cut will fall at the top-50 and ties for Sunday’s final round and that is currently set at four-over-par.

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