Caldwell lone Irish survivor at halfway stage in Finland

Bernie McGuire
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Caldwell lone Irish survivor at halfway stage in Finland

Jonny Caldwell birdied the last to ensure his spot amongst the weekend action at the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge in Finland.

The Clandeboye professional was walking the tightrope for most of the afternoon after trading four birdies and four bogeys but dug deep at the death to fire a precious four on the par-5 18th to book his place on Saturday’s tee-sheet.

Currently in a share of 47th spot on three-under-par, Caldwell will be hoping to progress up the leaderboard with the pressure of a looming cut now behind him.

However, he proved to be the lone Irish survivor on a testing week for our Challenge Tour contingent. Paul McBride was the hard luck story of the day after falling one shot shy of the required mark. The Dubliner even managed to birdie the last but his round of 70 for a two-under total ultimately fell one short.

As for Naas’ Conor O’Rourke and Waterford’s Gary Hurley, it never materialised for the pair in frustrating second rounds with both players eventually finishing on two-over-par and well out of the reckoning.

At the top, Australian Dimitrios Papadatos and Italian amateur Lorenzo Scalise share the halfway-lead on 11-under-par.

Both men have made a combined 14 birdies in their first two trips around the Vierumäki Resort Cooke Course. Scalise has two more bogeys than Papadatos but carded an eagle on the par five 12th hole on Day Two to off-set the additional dropped shots.

Ranked 23rd in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Scalise, who will turn professional after the World Amateur Team Championships next month, has shown he can succeed at the highest level, and will draw from his tied-11th place showing at the 2015 Italian Open as he goes for victory in his first European Challenge Tour start.

“My mindset this weekend will be the same it has been these first two days,” he said. “I know from the Italian Open that if I focus on my own game and if I play well, that it can be good enough.”

The 23-year-old amateur also has good vibes in Finland, where just last week he helped lead the Continent of Europe Team to victory in the St Andrews Trophy at Linna Golf near Helsinki.

Sharing the top spot with him is the 2018 56º Open de Portugal @ Morgado Golf Resort Champion who has come a long way in a short period of time — both literally and figuratively.

“When I came over from Australia originally to play Portugal a couple of months ago, that was just supposed to be a ‘one-off’ week, because I had a really bad category,” Papadatos said.

The Aussie won that first start of the year and ended up playing a mixture of Challenge Tour and European Tour events for the next ten weeks.

“I had to go home eventually, so I flew back after the Italian Challenge, had a re-fresh and then figured I would play the Fiji International and then get straight back over here and try to finish off the season,” he said.

The extreme travel had its complications though, as Papadatos’ golf clubs only arrived in Finland on Wednesday morning — leaving him hardly any time to prepare.

Sitting in the 15th and final European Tour-promotion spot on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah, the need to stay sharp through practice likely felt stronger than ever, but it turns out it was rest that the 27 year old needed, as his game has suddenly returned to its impressive form from earlier this year.

“The last month hasn’t been very good for me,” he said. “I missed the cut in Fiji and was just really struggling with my game, and then I got here, was jet-lagged and my clubs didn’t show up, so I was forced to be kind of lazy in a way.”

“I found something on the range before I teed off yesterday and thought that it felt alright and sort of went with it, and just kept pretty low expectations. I didn’t get too far ahead of myself and was able to play well.”

Both Papadatos and Scalise will have to continue their solid play as a total of seven players sit only one stroke back on ten-under-par.

Four Finnish golfers are very much in the mix as well — Kim Koivu and Antti Ahokas are positioned on nine under and eight under par respectively, while Road to Ras Al Khaimah Number Five Kalle Samooja and Roope Kakko stand four shots back of the leaders on seven under par.

In all, 61 players survived the 36-hole cut of three-under-par and will play the weekend at Finland’s most prestigious golf tournament.

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