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PHOTO: Cathal Butler who opened with a three-under par round of 68 at the AIG Irish Close in Ballybunion. Photo by Cashman Photography.
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Although losing out to Sean Desmond of Monkstown by one hole at the South last Sunday (28 July), Egan's runner-up finish may yet prove decisive when it comes to securing selection for the Home Internationals. The 26 year old Kildare native gains an automatic pick if he remains inside the top three. His impressive displays at Lahinch, host venue for those international matches from 11 to 13 September, were timely.
Brazill bowed out in the first round at the South but consistency has been the trend for the Naas star this season. He has four top-10s in domestic events and could well top the Bridgestone table after the AIG Irish Close at Ballybunion, which begins on Saturday (3 August). The big hitting 22 year old, provided he progresses to the match play stage, benefits from the absence of Purcell and Egan at the Close.
Outside the top three, permutations abound. Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell, returning to form after an injury ravaged season in 2018, overtakes Egan with a first round victory.
Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon is defending champion in Ballybunion, having won this crown at The European Club twelve months ago. Massereene's Tiarnán McLarnon, Close champion in 2015 at Tramore, is another former winner in the field. McLarnon lies 10th on the Bridgestone table.
Current international Ronan Mullarney from Galway is fifth on the table with a fine track record in match play. He reached the quarter-finals of The Amateur Championship at Portmarnock in June.Kinsale's John Murphy, winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2018, is alongside Power and Mullarney for the qualifying rounds. After 36 holes of stroke play, the top 64 progress to the match play stage, which commences on Monday 5 August.
The AIG Irish Amateur Close is the ninth of 10 events in the Bridgestone Order of Merit. The series concludes at the Mullingar Scratch Trophy from 10 to 11 August. The top three players at the end of the season earn automatic selection on the Ireland team for the Home Internationals, which will be staged at Lahinch from 11 to 13 September.
BRIDGESTONE ORDER OF MERIT – TOP TEN (AFTER SOUTH OF IRELAND)
1 Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) 472
2 Robert Brazill (Naas) 455
3 Keith Egan (Carton House) 450
4 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 399
5 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 375
6 Matthew McClean (Malone) 335
7 Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 318
8 Marc Boucher (Carton House) 312
9 Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) 308
10 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 305