Brazill pips Foley in all Irish clash as five Irish advance in South Africa

Ronan MacNamara

Robert Brazill (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/R&A via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Robert Brazill defeated Hugh Foley in an all Irish clash at the South African Amateur Championship as five of the six Golf Ireland players advanced to the last-32 of the matchplay stage in Mount Edgecombe.

After 36 holes of stroke play qualifying, the championship branched into matchplay with the top-64 involved, a format which the Irish players will be well accustomed to given the format of the Irish Championships.

Naas man Brazill saw off Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley 2&1 while there were also wins for Joshua Hill, Peter O’Keeffe, Robert Moran and Matthew McClean in round one.

In a repeat of last year’s South of Ireland Championship semi-final a lightning quick start from Connacht stroke play champion Brazill laid the foundations for his win over Foley.

The Kildare native roared out of the traps to go 3UP after as many holes before a third birdie in five holes saw him sprint four clear of Foley.

North and South of Ireland champion Foley halved the deficit to just two holes with a birdie on 11 and a par on 13 after Brazill double bogeyed the latter. The gap was trimmed to the minimum after Foley birdied 14 before a par on the par-3 15th was enough for Brazill to move two clear again.

Brazill bounced back again with a birdie on 17 to match Foley which gave him the win to progress and avenge his Lahinch loss.

“It was a good match, I played really well. Held out putts which I hadn’t done all week, still kind of struggling off the tee but it was nice to get the win,” explained the former West of Ireland winner. “I knew it was going to be a very tough match because Hugh is a machine in matchplay so it was nice to get one back for the South semi-final.

“It was annoying, Irish v Irish but at least five lads got through the first round and at least we were guaranteed one Irishman through if worst came to worst. It was a good match and I got off to a fast start and I loosened my grip pressure on the putter on the putting green and started holing really well.”

Putting proved crucial for the Irish international who is back on the Irish panel after some injury struggles – rolling in a 20-footer on 17 to eventually see off Foley’s spirited fightback.

“I held a nice 12-footer for birdie on the first, 13 on the third and got a lovely up and down from 160 yards on the fifth for birdie after hitting my tee shot left and chipping out on the par-5. Rolled in another 10-footer there. Played steadily from there on, missed one or two chances.

“We both bogeyed ten, both missed the green and missed easy enough up and downs. Hugh made a great birdie on 11, then on 13 I hit it down the right, the rough is really heavy and couldn’t find my ball and I was walking back to the tee and ended up finding it, it must have hit a tree and come back 30 yards from where we were looking. I hit the next tee shot left and gave the hole to Hugh.

“He made a great birdie on 14 and I hit my tee shot left and 15 is a tough par-3 into the wind. Hugh hit it into the water and I hit a lovely shot into 35-feet and two putted. Hit a lovely shot into 16 into the wind to about 25-feet, just missed. Hugh hit a class shot on 17 to a foot, I was 20-feet away and rolled it in the middle for the win.”

Ireland’s leading qualifier Hill came from 2 DOWN with four to play to edge Louis Liebenberg on the 18th and book his passage to the last-32.

Hill, runner-up in last week’s South African Strokeplay birdied the par-3 15th to halve the deficit before Liebernberg went on a chastening run of double bogey, bogey to leave the door ajar for the Mullingar Scratch Cup winner and he duly obliged.

Walker Cup squad member O’Keeffe put on a birdie fest in a superb 4&2 win over Travis Procter.

The Douglas native was eight-under-par for sixteen holes leaving Procter with little answer to the birdie barrage that was thrown his way.

Procter was two-under through six holes but remarkably found himself 2 Down to the 2021 Irish Amateur and Close champion who roared out of the traps with five birdies in six.

O’Keeffe added further gains on 8, 10 and 11 to move a whopping 6 UP and from there it was a matter of counting down the holes.

Castle’s Moran came from 2 DOWN at the turn to win 2&1 over Vinamra Anand while US Mid-Am winner McClean came through a very tight encounter to beat Charl Barnard 1UP.

The curse of the leading qualifier didn’t strike as Martin Couvra, last week’s winner was a thumping 6&5 winner.

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