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PHOTO: Mullarney in action. Image by Cashman Photography.
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Overnight leader Ronan Mullarney continued his blistering run around Ballybunion to take top spot in qualifying for the second year running at the AIG Irish Close on a nine under par total of 133.
The Galway star made five birdies in a second round 68 to clinch the silver medal on nine under. Mullarney finished six clear of Killiney's Eoin Leonard, who posted 67, the best of the day. Ulsterman Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) was one shot further back after shooting 69.
"It's good for confidence," said Mullarney of his latest prize. "I played nicely. I was happy with the way that I played."
The 23 year old international made a hat trick of birdies to reach eight under. Playing through a downpour on the back nine, Mullarney defied Mother Nature to put two more birdies on the card. After signing for 68, he moves into the knockout stages as the number one seed.
"If it was a stroke play competition, nine under after two rounds would be more appealing to me but it's just about qualifying," Mullarney maintained. "I led qualifying last year and didn't win it so hopefully I go a bit better. I want to win. I want to win bad. It's good to qualify but it's just another couple of rounds in the book."
Amid capricious weather, not to mention the inherent difficulty of the Old Course, Mullarney's numbers drew envious looks. How could he stand so far apart when so many suffered for their sport?
"I'm reading the greens quite well, my iron play is good and I'm driving it reasonably straight," Mullarney reasoned. "If the rain comes when you're on the wrong hole, you're in big trouble. We got to hit our second shots on 13 today before the rain came down."
The 13th, a par 5, yielded his fourth birdie of the round. At 16, he scored again, bringing his total on the par 5s across both rounds to nine under but those dividends are banked. Mullarney must launch a new press in the knockout stages.
"These championships are hard, it's six matches," he said, contemplating the challenge that lies ahead. "You cannot have an off match. It doesn't make a difference who you draw in the match play. You could draw the best player in the field who plays poorly or you could draw one of the weaker players in the field who plays really well."
Last year, when Mullarney led qualifying at The European Club, he lost by one hole to Castleknock's Dylan Brophy in round three.
"If I go home at the end of the week and all I got was leading qualifier, I'd be disappointed," Mullarney insisted. "Hopefully I'll be lifting the trophy."
Now that the field has been reduced to 64 for the match play rounds, all can aspire to the title. Eoin Leonard came closest last year, losing out to Robbie Cannon in the decider. The beaten finalist from 2018 posted a reminder of his credentials with a second round 67 to finish second in qualifying.
"This week, I have turned the corner," the 22 year old reported. "My golf has been getting better throughout the summer. Today was the first day I felt really confident with my putting stroke. If I'm confident with my putting stroke, it just flows through the rest of my game. There's less pressure to hit chips as close and less pressure to hit greens."
The Killiney player, who recently graduated from Yale University, showed glimpses of his best on a bright morning at Ballybunion. Leonard played at Boys level for Ireland in 2014. Win the Close and he has a serious claim for inclusion on the Senior team for this year's Home Internationals at Lahinch.
"I'm trying not to think too far ahead," Leonard stated. "I haven't really had any good results so far this season. I'm trying to focus on this week and playing as well as I can."
Whether he gains an Ireland cap, Leonard plans to play the European Tour's Qualifying School in October. The progress of Robert McIntyre from Scotland, whom Leonard played against as a junior, is a spur to pursue the professional game.
"Seeing him [McIntyre] finish tied sixth at The Open, knowing what he's like as a player, it's motivating to know that you're not as far off that level as you think," Leonard professed. "I am going to play golf for a couple of years and see how good I can get."
Massereene's Tiarnán McLarnon, the Close champion four years ago, bowed out early. An improved performance delivered a 74 in round two but McLarnon had left himself too far adrift after opening with 78.
Rob Brazill's ambitions to win the Bridgestone Order of Merit are still very much alive. The Naas man signed off in stroke play on six over par, well within the cutline.
The only former champion remaining in the field is Clontarf's Pat Murray. The 47-year old made the match play stages comfortably, some ten years on since his win at Enniscrone.
A back injury forced the former Irish Amateur Open champion and pro Gary Cullen to retire midway through his second round. At three over, Cullen was on course to make the cut, which eventually fell at plus nine.
Monday 5 August 2019
07:30 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) v Ruairi O'Connor (Co. Sligo)
07:38 Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) v Marc Boucher (Carton House)
07:46 Cathal Nolan (Galway) v Niall Hearns (Mountrath)
07:54 Harry Duggan (Kilkenny) v Peter Sheehan (Ballybunion)
08:02 Harry Gillivan (Westport) v T J Ford (Co. Sligo)
08:10 Keith Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) v John Murphy (Kinsale)
08:18 Sean Flanagan (Portmarnock) v Mel Deasy (Lee Valley)
08:26 Paul Murphy (Rosslare) v Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle)
08:34 Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin) v Rory Williamson (Holywood)
08:42 Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) v John McCarthy (Grange)
08:50 Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth) v Edward Stack (Ballybunion)
08:58 Paul Conroy (Enniscorthy) v Matthew McClean (Malone)
09:06 James Fox (Portmarnock) v Jack Blake (The Island)
09:14 Greg O'Mahony (Fota Island) v William Russell (Clandeboye)
09:22 Charlie Denvir (Elm Park) v Eoin O'Brien (Clontarf)
09:30 Jack Doherty (Carton House) v Conor Byrne (Woodbrook)
09:38 Eoin Leonard (Killiney) v Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire)
09:46 Cathal Butler (Kinsale) v Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle)
09:54 Andrew McCormack (Castletroy) v Shane Hogan (Nenagh)
10:02 Liam Nolan (Galway) v Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock)
10:10 Devin Morley (Oughterard) v Paul Coughlan (Castleknock)
10:18 Eanna Griffin (Waterford) v Daniel Coyle (Portmarnock)
10:26 Hugh O'Hare (Fortwilliam) v Adam Doran (Co. Louth)
10:34 Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick) v Robert Brazill (Naas)
10:42 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) v Peter McKeever (Castle)
10:50 Joe Lyons (Galway) v Robert Moran (Castle)
10:58 Pat Murray (Clontarf) v Kevin Stack (Dungarvan)
11:06 Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) v William Small (Tandragee)
11:14 Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) v Sean Desmond (Monkstown)
11:22 Ben Best (Rathmore) v David Brady (Co. Sligo)
11:30 Peter O' Keeffe (Douglas) v Evan Farrell (Ardee)
11:38 Liam Grehan (Mullingar) v Robert Galligan (Elm Park)
AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship
At Ballybunion (Old Course)
3-7 August 2019
STOKE PLAY QUALIFYING – RESULTS
133 R Mullarney (Galway), 65, 68
139 E Leonard (Killiney), 72, 67
140 C Campbell (Warrenpoint), 71, 69
141 R Knightly (Royal Dublin), 70, 71; J Fox (Portmarnock), 70, 71
142 A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), 74, 68; D Morley (Oughterard), 71, 71
143 H Gillivan (Westport), 74, 69; S Flanagan (Portmarnock), 71, 72
144 H O'Hare (Fortwilliam), 75, 69; P O' Keeffe (Douglas), 73, 71; C Denvir (Elm Park), 72, 72
145 G Dunne (Co. Louth), 74, 71; P Murray (Clontarf), 74, 71; A McCormack (Castletroy), 73, 72; C Nolan (Galway), 72, 73; H Duggan (Kilkenny), 71, 74; L Nolan (Galway), 71, 74
146 E Murphy (Dundalk), 75, 71; P Conroy (Enniscorthy), 71, 75; J Doherty (Carton House), 70, 76; L Grehan (Mullingar), 69, 77
147 R Black (Hilton Templepatrick), 78, 69; P Murphy (Rosslare), 76, 71; K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), 75, 72; E Griffin (Waterford), 75, 72; B Best (Rathmore), 75, 72; G O'Mahony (Fota Island), 74, 73; C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), 74, 73; J Lyons (Galway), 73, 74; C Butler (Kinsale), 68, 79
148 A Lowry (Esker Hills), 78, 70; M Boucher (Carton House), 78, 70; J Hood (Galgorm Castle), 77, 71; R Moran (Castle), 77, 71; J McCarthy (Grange), 76, 72; W Russell (Clandeboye), 75, 73; D Brady (Co. Sligo), 74, 74; D Coyle (Portmarnock), 74, 74; J Murphy (Kinsale), 74, 74; J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), 74, 74; R Brazill (Naas), 72, 76; R Galligan (Elm Park), 72, 76; C Byrne (Woodbrook), 71, 77
149 M McClean (Malone), 77, 72; W Small (Tandragee), 75, 74; S Walsh (Portmarnock), 74, 75; P Sheehan (Ballybunion), 74, 75; N Hearns (Mountrath), 73, 76; S Hogan (Nenagh), 73, 76; K Stack (Dungarvan), 73, 76; E Stack (Ballybunion), 72, 77; E O'Brien (Clontarf), 71, 78; E Farrell (Ardee), 71, 78
150 A Doran (Co. Louth), 78, 72; M Deasy (Lee Valley), 77, 73; T Ford (Co. Sligo), 77, 73; P Coughlan (Castleknock), 76, 74; S Desmond (Monkstown), 75, 75; J Blake (The Island), 73, 77
151 R Williamson (Holywood), 79, 72; P McKeever (Castle), 78, 73; C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), 76, 75; R O'Connor (Co. Sligo), 75, 76;
151 M Reid (Galgorm Castle), 75, 76; D McCormack (Roganstown), 75, 76; E Smith (The Links Portmarnock), 75, 76; T Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown), 74, 77
152 J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little), 79, 73; T McLarnon (Massereene), 78, 74; N Crawford (Mourne), 78, 74; S Carroll (Ballybunion), 77, 75; S Murphy (Portumna), 77, 75; L Power (Galway), 76, 76; T Dowdall (Woodbrook), 75, 77; P Buckley (Memorial), 72, 80; G Ward (Kinsale), 70, 82
153 B Lenihan (Ballybunion), 82, 71; M McPartlin (Smurfit club ), 81, 72; F O'Sullivan (Tralee), 80, 73; T Higgins (Roscommon), 79, 74; I Lynch (Rosslare), 77, 76; B Murray (Waterford Castle), 77, 76; C Feeney (Co. Sligo), 77, 76; R Nelson (Belvoir Park), 76, 77; M McAlpin (Royal Portrush), 73, 80
154 D Flynn (Carton House), 83, 71; K Morrison (Holywood), 81, 73; P O'Connor (Macroom), 79, 75; M Young (Golf du Priéure), 78, 76; D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), 77, 77; M McCormack (Moss Creek), 76, 78; R Walsh Jr (Kinsale), 74, 80
155 R Latimer (Knock), 83, 72; P O'Hara (Kilkenny), 81, 74; J Whelan (Newlands), 81, 74; R Milne (Faithlegg), 78, 77; R O'Doherty (Enniscrone), 78, 77; J Temple (Portmarnock), 72, 83
156 A Ryan (Thurles), 79, 77; J Keane (Lahinch), 79, 77; C Glennon (Glasson), 78, 78; M McKenna (Dun Laoghaire), 77, 79; B Shally (Dromoland), 76, 80; K McCormack (Portarlington), 76, 80
157 D Kitt (Athenry), 82, 75; C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), 79, 78
158 M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire), 84, 74; D Leufer (Athenry), 83, 75; P Brennan (Belvoir Park), 81, 77; M Healy (Kinsale), 80, 78; C Dunphy (Killeen Castle), 75, 83; D McAleenon (Edenmore), 71, 87
159 L O'Connor (Edmondstown), 80, 79; D O'Driscoll (Ballybunion), 79, 80; P Tobin (Douglas), 79, 80
160 C Hickey (Dooks), 81, 79; T Plunkett (Crover House), 80, 80; E Shipp (Headfort), 79, 81
161 A Hill (Athenry), 83, 78
164 P Connolly (Killeen Castle), 86, 78
165 R McCrudden (Royal Portrush), 80, 85
166 M OSullivan (The International), 86, 80
170 E Rumley (Kinsale), 85, 85
173 J Tuohy (Galway Bay), 89, 84
RTD G Cullen (The Links Portmarnock); R Clarke (The Island); M McKinstry (Cairndhu); K Lynch (Skibbereen); R Cannon (Balbriggan)
NR P Naughton (Limerick); S O'Connor (Castlebar)