Alex Maguire is the last Irishman standing at the 128th Amateur Championship after he won a thrilling last-16 tie against Portugal’s Daniel Rodrigues on the 23rd hole.
Maguire and Rodrigues couldn’t be separated after 18 holes and a birdie on the fifth extra hole saw the Laytown&Bettystown golfer through to the quarter-final at Hillside.
“I could feel my legs sort of caving in on me on the par-3 there just before the last, so 22nd hole. Yeah, it was an absolutely amazing match. Daniel played so good, and I matched him on a lot of holes. It really could have gone any way. If he got a bounce on the last, maybe it could be a different story, but lovely for myself, it went my way.”
The St Andrews Links Trophy winner has set up a mouth watering quarter-final clash with Lytham Trophy winner Frank Kennedy who beat Carton House golfer Marc Boucher by one hole.
This was a match that could have gone either way, level at the turn after nine halves in a row, Maguire drew first blood with a par on 10 before Rodrigues levelled with a birdie on 11.
After he bogeyed 13 and saw Rodrigues birdie 15, Maguire found himself two down with three to play. But he has been the comeback king so far this week and a par on 16 and birdie on 17 saw him draw level going up the last.
Last year’s semi finalist has done things the hard way, a second round 66 saw him make the cut by a shot before he came from 3 down at the turn to win his last-64 tie and two birdies in the five extra holes were enough to finally shake off his Portuguese opponent.
“So down 5, it’s sort of an awkward number for me. That bunker on the right is 300 and the next one is 330, so I decided I’ll hit 2-iron in the morning. I hit 2-iron and it was great, and it went like 320 in the afternoon; I had the adrenaline coming, and it being firm.
“I had 247, the exact number I had in the morning. I hit 4-iron just over the back, and it was more downwind, so I knew it was the perfect club. I hit 4-iron to like 20 feet, and obviously Daniel didn’t get out of the bunker, so I knew all I had to do was two-putt, and that’s what I did.”
Both Maguire and Boucher had both won their last-32 ties on Thursday morning 2&1 while Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty saw his week ended by TK Chantananuwat by the same margin.
By day’s end the 22-year-old back-to-back East of Ireland champion clocked up 40 holes of golf to add to the stresses and strains he has already had this week.
“It feels like I played 100. I feel very tired at this moment. A lot of holes. Recovery is a big thing. It’s all about staying off your feet. Luckily the Nando’s across from our hotel isn’t too far away. It’s only probably 30 steps. If you play great, you play as many holes as you want because if it’s a great match like it was today, none of us were giving an inch at all. We were around to play as many holes as it needed to be.
“I’m going to put my feet up now and maybe see if the physio is in there and get a rub down and use some compression boots to sort out my legs a little bit.”
The recovery will have to be quick for Maguire as he faces an 08:36 start against Kennedy. There is plenty to play for as he looks to strengthen his Walker Cup aspirations while he currently sits top of the Open Championship exemption table after his win at the Old Course earlier this month with a spot at the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool next month up for grabs after the European AM.
Having reached the last-4 12 months ago Maguire is using the pain from defeat to motivate himself to go all the way this time around.
“I was pretty sore last year after losing. I don’t mind playing well and losing because obviously the other player played better, but I felt like I threw it away last year. I had it close. It was a great match with Aldrich. Obviously he went on to win, which is fantastic for him, but I felt like I just gave up too many easy holes for my liking.
“Yeah, it left a big wound for a few months. It took a few months to get over it because it was my first time ever being in a championship this big, first time ever playing in it, so it took a while to get over it.
“I’ll go out here tomorrow and if I lose in the morning, who knows. I’m here and I’m going to give it my best shot and see where that leaves me. Maybe I get to Saturday or maybe I go home early, who knows, but I’m happy to get this far.”