Letterkenny Golf Club’s Cian Harkin emerged as the surprise 36-hole leader at the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club, but despite further honing his skills on the blustery fairways of Portsalon, Rosapenna and more recently, Portmarnock, the DCU student who’s going on to be a P.E. and Biology teacher is not expecting a straightforward route into the final 16.
“I’ll tell you now, it’s definitely not secured,” Harkin said after posting a best-of-the-week three-under round of 68. “Last year I was in 20th after two days and I maybe got a little comfortable because I knew the conditions were bad and I thought it would play to my advantage, but no, when you’re out here, all it takes is one lapse in concentration and it can lead to double to triple very easily.
“Because the standard of the field is so high, it’s very clustered so if you drop a shot you’re dropping multiple spots so nothing is guaranteed. Coming into the week, expectations are low. Top 16? The lads on the Irish team are probably going to take eight of those spots. Arron and James from England are probably going to be in there as well. The standard is so high and I’m very average so I’m just happy to be shooting a good score.”
As modest as Harkin is, there was nothing average about his round on Saturday. Only five players shot par or better and of those, only two were in red figures. Emerging English star James Claridge shot two-under, but Harkin went one better. Still, it wasn’t until the press began to nose around the group that he realised he was making waves.
“I knew I was going well,” he said, “then when the two photographers come you definitely know. It’s a strange sensation when you’re putting with two big camera lenses on you. I started to get the idea that I wasn’t just one of the pack anymore”
Leaderboard watching isn’t something that he’d ever done, and he doesn’t intend to change that tactic tomorrow.
“I’ve a caddie coming up tomorrow from Dublin,” he admitted, “so maybe he’ll keep an eye on the leaderboard just in case he needs to make a decision for me because I’m quite a nervy player so if I get a bit twitchy it could be a disaster.”
Hearing Harkin talk openly about the nerves and the enormity of the challenge that awaits was incredibly refreshing, not least of all because of the affable and carefree nature he exudes on course – talking freely with any and everybody to follow the group and joking with the press about his new-found fame.
“No,” he laughed when it was put to him that he’d seemed so at ease, “I’m like a duck. Calm above but flapping like hell underneath.”
Joking aside, the golf that Harkin has played so far has been sublime and if he can maintain his rhythm and hold his nerve then he’s got all the tools to become a household name within the amateur golf ranks.
The 36-hole cut made, part one is done and he’s put himself in prime position to complete part-two. Who knows what’s to come but he’ll be a tough opponent for anybody in part three if he manages to maintain his position in the top 16.
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