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Gleeson edges closer to another AIG Close title

​Gleeson v Cannon and Purcell v Leonard in the final four at the AIG Irish Close

  • 07 August 2018

PHOTO: Alex Gleeson in action on Tuesday - image by Cashman Photography

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Castle international Alex Gleeson goes in search of his second AIG Irish Amateur Close on the final day of this year's championship at The European Club.

Gleeson faces Robbie Cannon in the semi-finals with Portmarnock's Conor Purcell playing Eoin Leonard for a place in the decider. The penultimate day of competition saw silver medallist Ronan Mullarney bow out in round three.

As fatigue sets in, stamina becomes a bigger factor and having gone the distance in 2016 at Ballyliffin, Gleeson knows what lies ahead.

"On the final day everybody is kind of tired so if you can be solid, that's very good a lot of the time," said Gleeson after coming through a titanic quarter-final with Peter O'Keeffe, which was only settled at the 18th green.

"I've had a final [2015] and a win in this tournament," Gleeson added. "It helps that I've been there before and I know how I'm going to feel. I think if I can just go out and do exactly what I've been doing then I'll be in good shape."

It was a demanding day on the Co Wicklow links for the 24-year-old Dubliner. In the morning he was paired against fellow international Rowan Lester (Hermitage) and needed a birdie at the last to clinch a one-hole win. More heroics were required in his quarter-final clash with Peter O'Keeffe. All square playing the last, Gleeson missed the green left.

"I was lucky at the end that the ball stayed up but then I made a lovely up and down," said Gleeson, who holed from five feet to save par and watched on as O'Keeffe's putt slipped past.

"My loose shots I kind of rescued well," Gleeson reflected. "Any time I put myself in trouble I saved myself with my short game which I've kind of been doing all week. It hasn't been the best ball-striking week for me but I've been getting up and down when I need to and making pars around here is key because it's very rare that someone is going to go around here bogey free and not make any mistakes."

Former Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon provides the opposition for Gleeson in the semi-finals and the 39-year-old looked razor sharp as he cruised into the final four by beating Gary Collins (Rosslare) 7&6 and Dylan Brophy (Castleknock) 4&2, who had edged out leading qualifier Mullarney in the last 16.

"I played really well today," said Cannon. "I had two tough opponents but I'm on top of my game."

The omens were good when Cannon holed his second shot from 105 yards for eagle at the first during his round three clash with Collins.

"I like this golf course," said Cannon. "I always have. I know it's a ball striker's course. I was looking forward to it and I was quietly confident of doing well."

And experience could prove a trump card for Cannon, who played the Close when it was last staged at The European Club 12 years ago.

In the second semi-final, 21-year-olds Conor Purcell and Eoin Leonard battle it out. 

Purcell needed extra holes to progress past Mallow's James Sugrue in the third round, eventually winning with a birdie at the 20th, but he came through his quarter-final in comfort, beating Eugene Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 4&2.

"It was a bit scrappy at the start with a few bogeys thrown in but then we got it going," said Purcell. "I just broke away at the turn. I kept the foot down."

The key moment came on 14 where Purcell followed Smith in for birdie to remain three clear. Now Purcell faces former Ireland Boys teammate Eoin Leonard in the final four.

Leonard birdied the 19th to beat Marc McCormack in the last eight having crushed Kevin Stack (Dungarvan) 6&5 in round three.

"I'm glad that a birdie won it rather than the mistakes on 18," said Leonard reflecting on a dramatic finish to his quarter-final match with McCormack.

Both players made bogey at 18, McCormack holing from 20 feet for his five after Leonard had played out of the hazard.

"I just pushed my second shot on 18," Leonard explained. "It came up a little short. I got down there and it was just in stones, there was no water in there so decided to Jean van de Velde-it and hit a little chip. Luckily it worked out alright."

The first semi-final tees off on Wednesday morning at 8am with Purcell and Leonard beginning at 8.15am.