Foley and McClean on cusp of All-Ireland Final at US Mid-Am

Hugh Foley (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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Hugh Foley and Matt McClean will fly the flag for Irish golf in the semi-finals of the US Mid-Amateur Championship at Erin Hills

Royal Dublin’s Foley, the winner of the North and South of Ireland this year, as well as a runner-up in last month’s Irish Amateur, eliminated 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion Chad Wilfong 2 up after a tight encounter.

Malone’s McClean, who by his own admission has enjoyed his best ever season this year and represented Ireland in the World Amateur Team Championship in France two weeks ago, knocked out Scott Turner 2&1. It seems the club logo at Erin Hills – the shamrock – is bringing the Irish some luck.

Foley and McClean are on opposites ends of the draw, so there’s a chance these good friends could face each other in the 36-hole final. With a spot in next year’s U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club up for grabs, as well as a likely invitation into April’s Masters Tournament, what a prospect that tussle between teammates would be.

“We’re getting looked after so well,” said Foley who hit the front in his quarter-final match on 13 before winning 14 and closing out the match on the last.

“First by Greg [Zeeman] in Chicago, and then by Dan [Benedum], who lives 15 minutes away. There’s a lot of Irish contingent out here who are looking after us, which is super. We’re having a great time, such a great time.

“We play a lot of [match play] back home. We have six major championships, [and off the] top of my head, three of them are this format, 36 [holes] a day. Now, the hills around here make it tougher on you physically, but I’m quite used to it. I’ve played something like 25 matches this year, 36 a day. It takes a lot of getting used to. Your feet start hurting, but you just keep going.”

McClean, who is an optometrist, broke open a tie match against Turner, the owner and operator of the Minor League Golf Tour in Florida, with consecutive birdies on 11 and 12 to grab a 2-up advantage. The players tied the next five holes.

“Yeah, it feels like we’ve been here probably two weeks as opposed to a week, so our [first] practice round was [last] Thursday, and then today is Thursday. So we’ve been going for eight days, and there’s still two days left, so it’s going to be a 10-day tournament,” said McClean.

“I’ve spent a good bit of money in the pro shop already, with the shamrock [logo] and all that [merchandise]. It would be unbelievable [to win], really.”

The two semifinal matches and the first round of the 36-hole final will take place on Friday, beginning at 7 a.m. CDT (1pm Irish). The first 18 of the championship match is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m (18.30 Irish) with the second 18 set for Saturday at 7am (1pm).

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