Only seven shots separate the 51 players that made the halfway cut at the AIG Irish Men’s Amateur Close Championship at Tullamore GC where Aaron Ryan from Thurles and Kinsale’s Cathal Butler lead the field on 4-under par going into Sunday’s 36-holes.
Both leading players carded two rounds of 68 on a wet and testing day at the Offaly venue and Butler, who is -5 for the week on the front nine, knows that taking advantage of those holes has been key to his great position.
“I’m taking care of those holes well. I’m playing conservatively on the difficult holes. There are some tricky holes. I’m happy with how I’m playing, and I can’t wait for tomorrow,” he said.
Enniscorthy’s Paul Conroy, Powerscourt golfer David Shiel and first round leaders Robert Moran and Keith Egan are one stroke back on -3 and lead the chasing pack.
Conroy’s 65 was the round of the day, and he was delighted to move into contention after his opening 72.
“I knew there was a low round out there today when the rain died down. I hit it closer than I did on Friday and holed a few more putts. It’s wide open going into Sunday. I knew I needed a low round today,” commented Conroy.
As for David Shiel, he completed his round of 68 before the conditions worsened and he hopes to take that form into Sunday.
“I played great today. I’ve been working really hard on my game in the past year. It’s all about focusing on my own game tomorrow and taking it shot by shot.”
Grange’s Robert Moran, who got to -7 at one point, dropped four shots on the final three holes to finish on -3 while Keith Egan also finished level for the day, with three birdies and three bogeys around the Tullamore course.
A group of seven players lie on -2, including 2008 champion Paul O’Hanlon, 2020 Irish Boy’s Champion Sam Murphy and former Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O’Keeffe.
O’Hanlon can become the first player to win the title in a Matchplay and Stroke play format, and he’s looking forward to the final day.
“I’ve good memories of Tullamore, having won the Leinster Mid-Am here in June. I’m feeling very comfortable out there. Two back is nothing really. The third round will be key in the morning.
“I’m a proper working man now with a baby girl at home, so it’d be the most satisfying win of my career if I was to do it,” he said.
2020 champion Hugh Foley is in a group of three players on -1, with only 16 players under par going into the final day.
Round 3 gets underway on Sunday morning at 7am, with the final round set to tee off at 11.45am.