Sean Keeling defied the blustery Sunningdale conditions to move two shots clear at the Brabazon Trophy at the halfway stage on a day where only five players shot under par.
Keeling backed up his opening round of 65 with an equally impressive level-par 70 to remain on five-under and take a two-shot advantage into the weekend over Kris Kim.
The Roganstown starlet showed maturity beyond his years after he recovered from early bogeys on his front nine with birdies on 10 and 15.
The sixteen-year-old closed with three successive pars in what was a message to the field that he isn’t daunted by anything.
“I’m very happy to follow up yesterday’s round with another solid round today,” said Keeling.
“It was challenging, especially here with all the trees as the wind swirls around a lot. What you feel is different to what the wind is actually like, so that made it hard.
“I tried to keep it in the fairways and in the middle of the green so I could make as many pars as I could. I had a couple of birdies too which was nice, but the aim was to play steady golf.”
Keeling could take a huge step towards a Junior Ryder Cup place this September but despite his tender years he hasn’t been afraid to talk up his Walker Cup chances recently and if he could come out on top on Sunday it would provide a huge selection headache for GB&I selectors.
The Scottish Boys Open champion is riding the crest of a wave.
“The Scottish Boys’ Open has given me a lot of confidence because I know I can win. I’ve been playing smart and hitting it nicely off the tee, so that has been massive for me.”
Irish Amateur Open champion John Gough is third on one-under after rounds of 68 and 71 while Laytown&Bettystown’s Alex Maguire ground out a two-over 72 to share seventh place on one-over-par.
The East of Ireland champion birdied 18 for the second successive day to reward him for his battling.
“Today was more of a struggle, the course showed its teeth today with more wind, probably two to three club wind at times and the gusts made it play a lot tricker and firmed up the course and the greens got crusty.
“I did OK I did my best to stay patient and get in the club house with a decent score and give myself a chance over the weekend.”
It’s often when you win that you look back at key moments from the early rounds and Maguire made a massive momentum saving par on the par-5 13th.
“I felt it was going to turn on me on 13, I hit into a bush and staring bogey at least in the face I hacked it into the fairway and hit a two iron from 290 into the wind into the short right bunker, caught that clean to 35 feet and luckily that rolled in.
“That was huge momentum for me because it was about giving yourself a chance and not blowing yourself out of it.”
There are plenty of Irish still in the hunt to try and chase down Keeling with Matthew McClean (72) and Liam Nolan (70) on two-over-par and in a share of 15th.
Galway’s Nolan eagled the 13th and birdied 18 to cap off a superb recovery after opening his round with a double.
Hugh Foley is two shots further back after a 75 which included back-to-back closing birdies while Marc Boucher and Patrick Keeling made the cut by two shots on six-over.
Gweedore’s Padraig O’Dochartaigh survived a late double bogey to make the cut on the number at plus seven.
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