Walker plays “risk free” golf to take Student Series lead in Portugal

Ronan MacNamara

Simon Walker (Image: Maynooth University)

Ronan MacNamara

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Simon Walker will take a one shot lead into the final round of the R&A Student Series in Troia after a superb bogey-free round on the notoriously difficult golf course.

The Maynooth University Accounting and Finance student is the only player to card a blemish-free round so far this week after a two-under 70 of two birdies and 16 pars saw him rise to the summit on one-over.

Walker leads Edge Golf College golfer Noah Brunner after the Swiss posted the round of the week with a 68.

The 21-year-old was three-over after five holes of round one but has not dropped a shot  in 31 holes. Despite being happy with how he played there was a tinge of disappointment that he didn’t open up a wider lead.

“I had a bad start yesterday with three bogeys in my first five holes, but I’ve only had one bogey since the fifth yesterday (at the 18th),” said Walker, who finished joint fifth here last year.

“I’m just trying to hit fairways and greens and play risk free, keep the ball out of trouble and take my chances when they come. I had a lot of chances today and didn’t convert as many as I’d have liked.”

Walker who is contemplating doing a Masters next year is looking to become the fourth Maynooth University winner of this event (Paul Conroy, Ryan Griffin and Jordan Boles).

The Roscommon man held out from eight-feet for a birdie at the second and then from five feet on 13 for his second gain of the day.

“I learned last year that you have to limit the big numbers to do well around here,” said Walker, who is in his third and final year of his undergraduate studies but is contemplating a Masters degree. “If you can do that then playing this course is easier because it’s more of a mental challenge here. You have to stay calm, not get angry at yourself because once you do you can rack up big numbers.”

Next best of the Irish in the men’s section is Maynooth fresher Liam Abom in ninth after a two-over 74 left him on seven-over.

Maynooth University’s Aaron Marshall put together an impressive one-under 71 to move alongside West of Ireland champion Alan Fahy on eight-over.

“Really solid round from Simon today,” said Maynooth Golf Programme co-ordinator Barry Fennelly. “That’s great golf around Troia because it’s so punishing if you are out of position off the tee, it’s hard to control the ball from the scrub and the greens are small.

“Great playing by him and even yesterday he played very well, four dropped shots in 36 holes is great going on by far the toughest course we play on the circuit.

“Simon found some great form towards the end of last year, he had a good run at the Irish Close and got picked for the South American Amateur so he has had some good form and is looking to kick on.

“Liam is only a first year but has been impressive so far with a really great work ethic. He played really well in France getting into the final group there and finished fourth. It’s great to see a first year step up to the standard and he is going nicely.

“Aaron (Marshall) had a great day. A poor start yesterday killed him but he’s back in it now and Alan (Fahy) is back in it as well a former Irish international he can do something.

In the women’s section Irish Amateur champion Lorna McClymont of Scotland holds a commanding five-shot lead on five-over after a 75.

The lead would have been larger for the Stirling University student had it not been for a triple-bogey seven on the 16th which gave hope to the chasing pack.

Part of the chasers is Maynooth University’s Kate Dwyer on eleven-over after a second round 80 which leaves her in fourth place.

The Intervarsities champion is six adrift but was McClymont’s closest challenger until a closing triple bogey.

Trinity’s Kate Lanigan is in eighth place on fifteen-over after a 79 while Maynooth’s Annabel Graham is +39.

“Kate Dwyer was one shot behind Lorna in the final group today,” said Fennelly. “Lorna has been the player to beat over the last two years, she has cleaned up at this level, played Palmer Cup twice and is a Scottish international. Kate had a good tussle with her today and hung in there to claw it back to two behind playing 18.

“Unfortunately a course management error on 18 put her in fairway bunker 50 yards of the green and unfortunately finished with a triple bogey. She has played very good golf and I wouldn’t be surprised if she finished with a strong round tomorrow. She’s trending in the right direction.”

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