Castle’s Robert Moran will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship after a marathon third round at the Island Golf Club.
Play was suspended for one hour and forty-five minutes after a dense fog blew in from the Irish Sea and engulfed the golf course causing visibility issues particularly on the seventh tee where there was a backlog of groups.
Moran teed off in the final group with Carton House’s Marc Boucher and Ballybofey & Stranorlar’s Ryan Griffin and it was as you were when they were called in from the fifth fairway after the trio couldn’t be separated on level-par.
Moran had to dig deep on the back nine. A bogey six on the tenth dropped him back into a share of the lead and while he passed up good opportunities on the 14th and 16th, he made a miraculous par save on the par-5 15th from the dunes.
The 22-year-old is eighteen holes away from winning his first major at this level but he is taking it all in his stride.
“Pretty tired to be honest,” he said. “I was out a long time, stop-start wasn’t ideal for energy but I was grand at least I can stay home tonight.”
“I was very careful not to get involved in what anyone else was doing. I’m really good mates with Marc but never actually played with him in competition but we both enjoyed it anyway.”
Moran entered the week as the favourite as the highest-ranked player in the field but he admits he feels no extra pressure heading into the final day.
“I don’t really know. I don’t overthink it whatever shot is in front of you try and hit the right one. A one shot is nothing so just take each shot as it comes and hopefully I hit the right one.”
Moran’s nearest challengers are Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell, Boucher and Griffin.
Campbell was the clubhouse leader for just over an hour after posting three birdies on his back nine for a three-under 69 but his position improved over the course of the evening as light faded and the energy levels of the final groups waned.
The Down native was delighted to see his hard work over the last few weeks come to fruition on a big stage.
“Yeah, I played lovely,” he said. “It’s been trending in the right direction. I ended up making bogey on 8 after the restart from a ropey enough couple of shots so I had to say to myself to switch back on. I made two nice swings coming down 9 and then I got into a good rhythm on the back 9. The delay didn’t help obviously as we were going at a nice pace beforehand but it’s the same for everyone.”
Campbell rolled back the years having won this event in 2016. He now has a full-time job and a family to look after but the same old feelings haven’t left him and he is relishing the prospect of lifting his second Irish Amateur title.
“Things have slightly changed since then obviously!” he laughed. “But I’m still ambitious and still want to try and compete. I wasn’t here to make up the numbers, obviously the goal is to come here and give myself a chance of winning on the last day. So, I’ve put myself into a nice position going into tomorrow which is what we want to do.
“Yesterday was blowing 30-35mph winds, and the wind completely switched today and the golf course plays different but that’s links golf in a nutshell and again, it’s the same for everyone.”
Boucher was easy to pick out as darkness fell on the 18th with his luminous green putter grip. The Dubliner closed out with a crucial birdie, fist pumping a ten-footer home to move to within one after a one-over 73.
Having turned in level-par, the Irish international dropped shots on the 11th and 14th but that closing birdie has kept him hot on the heels of Moran.
Maynooth University student Griffin was proud of how he hung in during his third round after he dropped three shots in two holes around the turn. A bogey on the eighth was followed by a double on the ninth as he slipped to plus three and four adrift at the time.
“I’m wrecked now,” Going to get back into bed and get going for tomorrow.
“I didn’t hit any seriously bad shots just got the odd bounce here and then into a bunker or into a bad spot,” he explained. “Sometimes playing for bogey is a good score. It was nice how I responded and it was great to make that ten-footer on the last it makes it sweeter.”
The marketing student who has exams next week responded gallantly with birdies on the tenth and fourteenth and he held a clutch par-putt on the 18th to keep his hopes very much alive.
It was unprecedented territory for the Donegal native but he enjoyed every minute of it.
“I had a lot of those putts, it was lovely to see them rolling in. The one on 14 was dying a death at the end but it was nice to catch the edge.
“At the end of the day you are doing it for the enjoyment of it. This is what you practice for, this is where you want to be and the sort of people you want to be rubbing shoulders with.
“The fog delay didn’t come at a great time,” he said having birdied the previous hole. “It was a bit of a disaster, it was foggy when we started.”
The top-9 are separated by just five shots with Matthew McClean (+3), Joseph Hanney (+3), Alan Fahy (+3), Joshua Hill (+4), and Hugh Foley (+5) not out of it.
Former Walker Cup star Caolan Rafferty is in 11th on seven-over after he shot the round of the day with a four-under 68.
The 54-hole cut fell at sixteen-over with defending champion Peter O’Keeffe making it on +15.