Power the leading Irish qualifier as eleven make Amateur Championship matchplay stages

Ronan MacNamara

Mark Power (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Mark Power qualified for the matchplay stages of the 127th Amateur Championship in third place after he roared through the field with a seven-under 65 as eleven Irish players made the top-64 at the end of strokeplay qualifying.

The 36-holes were played across Royal Lytham & St Annes and St Annes Old Links and Power played the latter in his second round.

The Kilkenny native was seven-under through his first eleven holes and avoided any mishaps on his way home to qualify just one off the lead.

“It was just one of those days,” said the 2020 semi-finalist. “Lytham is obviously tricky, but felt like I shot 1-over but felt like I could have done better. I knew if I came out here and stayed patient and gave myself some looks, I’d have a chance of going low and that’s exactly what I did. I hit many greens on the front nine, and just got the putter rolling well and obviously to start the back nine, birdie, birdie was a nice start.

“I’m happy with my round, but yeah, it could have been even better.”

After a one-over 73 at Lytham Power needed to make a positive move away from the cut line and he did just that with a sensational start, carding five birdies in his opening eight holes before adding a brace on ten and eleven.

The Wake Forest student wasn’t fazed by the position he was in and was slightly disappointed he wasn’t a couple of shots lower but he is content with his game heading into the matchplay.

“Yeah, 7-under after 11. I made a lovely little putt for birdie on 11, and confidence was just flowing. IT wasn’t even like I felt, wow, I’m 7-under. I felt comfortable to keep it going. I just leaked my tee shot right on 13, the par 3 and made bogey.

“Played solid golf coming in. Was unlucky on 17. Just got off the face of green-side bunker and couldn’t make birdie. Hit it in close on the last. If I made that, could have been maybe tied clubhouse leader.

“But I’ll take where I’m at and I’m pretty happy going match play,” he added.

Power is an experienced campaigner despite being just 22-years-old having won an Irish Boys title, won the ACC Championship for Wake Forest and playing in the Irish Open. The prize for the Amateur Champion at the end of the week is a place in the 150th Open Championship, US Open and an invitation to the Masters and the Irishman is doing his best to put those thoughts to one side, for now.

“When you see the likes of Joe Long and even Laird Shepherd coming through the last couple years, you watch those guys on TV and living it up, playing in the Masters and The Open, that’s where we all want to be.

I suppose going into the week, you have those pictures in your head but you want to stay level-headed and see what happens during the week, for us guys this side of the pond, this is the one we all want.”

Power will be joined by Connemara’s Luke O’Neill who qualified in a share of tenth place on three-under after an excellent effort of level-par 70 around Lytham while a five-under 67 from Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly saw him sign for a 36-hole total of two-under.

Malone’s Matthew McClean led the Irish charge after the opening day and he did enough to comfortably make the cut despite a two-over 72 at Lytham.

A three-under 69 for East of Ireland winner Alex Maguire helped him to one-under and 27th place alongside former Walker Cupper Caolan Rafferty who showed his class with a two-under 68 around the more difficult Lytham.

Ulster Strokeplay champion Jack Hearn and Paul Coughlan both shot four-over 74s in Lytham to make the cut on level-par while Peter O’Keeffe of Douglas joined them after a three-under 69 at St Annes Old Links.

Ballybofey & Stranorlar will head into the matchplay stages under the radar after two level-par rounds of 72 and 70.

The cut fell at one-over with John Cleary making it on the mark.

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