Ronan Mullarney was Ireland’s marathon man on day one of the match play series of The Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.
Mullarney, 23, had a 7.45am start time for a round one clash with Mason Andersen of the USA, and following his 2&1 victory over the American, went into battle again in the afternoon, this time against England’s Jake Bolton.
Another 2&1 result brought the Galway golfer into round three, but he decided he still had work to do after Wednesday’s 34 holes of match play.
“I didn’t hit the ball great, so I am going to hit a few balls. But there are so many matches left to play so one at a time,” he said.
Mullarney started badly in his afternoon match, hitting two drivers out of bounds on the first hole.
“I played well in the morning, only had two bogeys and a couple of birdies. Then this afternoon, I started by hitting two balls into the estuary.
“I thought the first one was okay. It landed in play, but it must have kicked right, but the second one wasn’t even close.
“But I played nicely after that. I holed a lot of putts from six to ten feet, Must have holed three of them and he had so many putts for halves. He was a really solid player but unlucky he caught a couple of bunkers off the tee,” said Mullarney.
The vagaries of match play were plain to see as the Irish challenge dwindled from four qualifiers to just two men left standing – Mullarney and Mallow’s James Sugrue.
Sugrue went straight into round two by virtue of making the cut with a shot to spare on Tuesday, and he claimed a good scalp in defeating England’s Harry Hall of West Cornwall by two holes.
Hall, 21, an England international and current member of the Walker Cup squad, had high hopes of a good run in this Championship but Sugrue put paid to those ambitions.
“I knew Harry is obviously a very good player and he’s coming off a great run of tournaments. I knew it would be tough enough match. I played lovely. I couldn’t really have asked for more,” said Sugrue.
Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty and Eanna Griffin of Waterford both lost their round two contests. Rafferty and Finland’s Jonatan Jolkkonen were closely matched throughout the round, but the Irishman’s bogey on the final hole where he was in a horrible lie in rough close to the 18thgreen proved decisive.
Despite holing from 12 feet for a battling bogey, Rafferty could only look on as Jolkonnen took two putts for a winning par and a one hole result.
Griffin was four up through ten holes in his match with Scottish Walker Cup panellist Euan Walker, but lost momentum early in the back nine and was reeled in by his opponent who won by two holes.
The Waterford golfer, who recently completed his studies in Equine Business at Maynooth University, now looks ahead to making a challenge for the North of Ireland and South of Ireland titles.
“It’s very disappointing how I finished. I wouldn’t be expecting to finish like that, but you have to take it on the chin.
“My goal coming up was just to make the cut. Qualifying in 11th was good. I’m finally playing a bit of decent golf. The game is close enough now
so I’ll hopefully try to win a championship this summer,” said Griffin.
England’s Thomas Plumb of Yeovil, the leading qualifier, continued his impressive form with a 7&5 victory over Alejandro del Ray Gonzalez (Spain).
“I’m superstitious myself so you do think about the history of top qualifiers often losing in the first round. Regardless of where I go in the tournament, I thought getting through the first round tie was going to be the hardest one,” said Plumb.
David Micheluzzi, the World number seven and top ranked player in the field, safely negotiated a hard fought contest with fellow Aussie and good friend, Kyle Michel.
“I was looking at my phone last night and saw that I was playing Kyle which was crazy. As two Victorian golfers, we wanted to meet each other later in the competition but these things happen,” said Micheluzzi after his two holes win over Michel.
Two rounds are scheduled for Thursday to reduce the field to the last eight.
Irish in Round 3:
8.24am:James Sugrue (Mallow) v Christoffer Palsson (Sweden);
9.18am:Ronan Mullarney (Galway) v Ludvig Aberg (Sweden).