Sean Keeling continues to impress and he will take a five-shot lead into the final round of the Brabazon Trophy as Liam Nolan roared into second place at Sunningdale.
Scotland’s Connor Graham, Switzerland’s Nicola Gerhardsen and Irish Men’s Amateur Open champion John Gough are six shots back on level-par in third place.
Keeling carded a one-under 69 to extend his halfway lead on six-under and if he does go on to win on Sunday it will be three nerveless back nine performances that will have been key.
The Roganstown teenager birdied two of his last six holes to pull away from the chasing pack having dropped shots on ten and eleven.
Having bogeyed the second hole, Keeling bounced back with birdies on five and six and following a minor blip to open his back nine he showed nerves of steel to birdie 13 and 18.
After the blustery conditions on day two, Sunningdale New was picture perfect, playing firm and fast in the blazing sunshine and the 16-year-old Dubliner was delighted with his effort so far.
“I’m really happy with how I just stayed patient,” said Keeling who can equal the youngest age winning record of the Brabazon Trophy on Sunday.
“I had a little bit of a dodgy patch on the start of the back nine but just reminded myself to stay patient which I did and I managed to make two birdies coming in which was nice.
“You can find yourself thinking ahead or thinking negatively but you have to just pull yourself back and get back to positive thoughts.
“It’s unbelievable to get the opportunity to play at a course like Sunningdale and to play in a competition is even better so I’m truly privileged to get the chance to play here.”
The Brabazon Trophy is one of a few key selection events for the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side in September and Keeling can stake a serious claim for a place at St Andrews if he can complete a wire-to-wire win.
“It would mean the world to mean to win the Brabazon Trophy but I just need to stay in the moment, play one shot at a time and then whatever happens, happens.”
Galway’s Nolan will look to steal the trophy from his fellow countryman after he soared into second place on one-under after a three-under 67 courtesy of two birdies in his last three holes.
Nolan is five-under for his last 27 holes and has gone from looking over his shoulder at the cut mark to looking up at Keeling as he looks for his second win of 2023.
“I haven’t made any silly mistakes over the last 27 holes or so I’ve played really solid and the greens are really tricky so it’s important to stay patient on them. I’ve been hitting solid shots and giving my putts a good chance.”
The NUIG student is no stranger to an all-Irish final day showdown having pipped Max Kennedy to the South American Amateur title in Ecuador in January and he is excited to lock horns with Keeling.
“It’s really cool to have two Irish up at the top in a big tournament on the amateur stage. Hopefully the both of us can give it a good run.
“Since my exams finished in April I’ve been playing nicely but I have been making a couple of small mistakes in a round which I usually wouldn’t but I made up for them today thank God and put myself in a good position.”
It’s been a quiet spring period for Nolan who showed glimpses of post exam form during his 18th place finish at the Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship and he has carried that into this week.
Nolan was named on the provisional Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup panel for September’s contest and he can put his hand up for selection with a win.
“The Walker Cup is something I try not to think about because it’s so far away but it would be great to win for that selection process but it’s so far away with so much golf to be played that it’s not the first thing on my mind at the moment. I want to play each tournament as well as I can and whatever comes of it we will see.
“It would be an awesome team to make but I just need to keep playing well.”
Next best of the Irish is Alex Maguire on five-over with Matthew McClean a shot further back while Marc Boucher and Patrick Keeling are on plus eight.
Hugh Foley is plus eleven while Padraig O’Dochartaigh props up the field on +20.