England’s James Claridge put on a clinic of iron play on day two of the Connolly’s Audi Centenary West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
The Enville golfer opened with a round of 74 but bounced back in style with a two-under 69 to lie in second place on one-over-par.
No player lies under-par through 36 holes with Letterkenny’s Cian Harkin leading the way on level-par after a round of the week 68 but Claridge is hoping to take a scalp on Irish soil over the Easter bank holiday.
“I played pretty well. Yesterday I didn’t hit my irons as good as I usually do, struggled with spin,” he said. “Spoke to my coach last night and we went over a few things and he said if you can get it within 20 feet it’s pretty good. Putted pretty well today, I didn’t make a bogey or three-putt.
“Just stuck to it today and played solid. Conditions were similar to Friday. I struggled yesterday and made a few changes today, hit it well in the warm up so I thought if I could keep it going. Had a decent score going yesterday but made a few bogeys. Got to 12 today and got up and down for par with the tough stretch to go but I wasn’t spinning my irons.
“Two under then I made an up and down on 14, 16 and 17 and they were huge in a round where you have to keep it going,” added Claridge who carded two birdies and sixteen pars in a remarkable bogey-free round.
The final round of strokeplay will commence in Rosses Point on Sunday with many hoping for a Christ-like resurrection from the depths into the top-16 for the matchplay stages.
The curse of the leading qualifier has often struck in Irish championships but the leading stroke play golfer need not leave empty handed with the Pat Ruddy trophy up for grabs and Claridge wants a double swoop.
“It depends on the situation if you’re in a position where you can win it, try and win it. It would be nice to win the storkeplay but you could come 16th and win the whole thing so it’s about getting through and see what happens.”
It’s been a barrel of laughs for Claridge who has local man Robbie Fitzpatrick walking the fairways with him this week.
“Him and Kevin and Shane Flanagan have put us up this week me Arron and George. Me and George’s first time at the West and Arron has been here before and played well. I think it helped during the round having someone to chat to, having someone to have a giggle with makes it easier when you have a round going.”
Fresh off a win at the Berkhamstad Trophy last week the Englishman is no stranger to Irish shores and he hopes he can notch a crucial win and catch the eye of Walker Cup selectors having been omitted from the provisional GB&I panel.
“I’ve never been in the West. I played Irish AM and played pretty well at the European Club, played the East last year during a struggle and missed the cut by one so I played with Robbie Cannon there and I won last week then he put out a tweet saying I was the most improved GB&I golfer so coming from him that was pretty cool.
“I love coming over here, I always enjoy it, you have to grind it out, a great golf course all the time.
“I was talking to the selectors at the Spanish Am and if you’re not in the practice squad you have to rack up multiple wins. I won last week and playing pretty well now so trying to get into a position if you keep playing good golf you might get picked.”
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