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Kerr has title vision after flying under the radar

By Paul Kelly

Published 20/08/2016

Prize fighter: Royal Portrush ace Peter Kerr is in the semi-finals of the Irish Close Championship at Ballyliffin
Prize fighter: Royal Portrush ace Peter Kerr is in the semi-finals of the Irish Close Championship at Ballyliffin

While all the focus at the Irish Close Championship was on the established stars, Royal Portrush's Peter Kerr quietly eased himself into today's semi-finals at Ballyliffin.

The 2015 Ulster Boys champion will face Irish international Alex Gleeson in the last four after brushing aside Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) and Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) in emphatic style yesterday at the Co Donegal links.

"I've exceeded my expectations but I want to keep going as far as I can," said Kerr, who will begin university at St Andrews in Scotland next month.

"I've played better as the week has gone on. I'm just hoping to become the best amateur I can be and this is the place to be.

"It's a really good course, obviously I enjoy playing links golf. I live in Belfast, but I'm at Portrush all summer."

Wind and rain made life very difficult yesterday morning and although the sun came out in the afternoon, the wind continued to gust at over 40kph.

It didn't, however, halt the charge of Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith who is just two wins away from regaining the title he won in 2014 at Seapoint.

He was not at his best against Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) in round three and Marc Nolan (Delgany) in the quarter-finals but somehow managed to grind out two victories to set up a semi-final meeting with Jake Whelan (Newlands) this morning.

"Caolan got off to a steady start, I didn't play too well on the front nine. He got a couple up on me. I played solid on the back, managed to plug away and get the match back and I managed to win 3&2 in the end," said Galbraith, who won the North of Ireland in high winds at Royal Portrush in 2015.

"The conditions were very tough. I didn't play the best, got a bit tired and started hitting a few loose shots. My short game was good all day, so that kept me in it."

Reigning champion Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) went out in round three when he was beaten at the second extra hole by fellow Ulster representative Colin Fairweather (Knock).

McLarnon had shown his typical fighting spirit to keep the match alive with a lengthy par putt on the first extra hole but his double ambitions were thwarted at the 20th.

Meanwhile, England's Matthew Fitzpatrick kept himself well in contention to secure his spot on Darren Clarke's European Ryder Cup team as he fired a second consecutive 69 on day two of the D+D REAL Czech Masters in Prague.

The 21-year-old currently occupies the last of the nine qualifying places for the biennial showpiece at Hazeltine in September and he headed into the weekend at Albatross Golf Resort at six under, four shots behind leaders Thomas Pieters and Jeff Winther.

The qualifying period ends at next week's Made in Denmark but Fitzpatrick is eager to get the job done with a tournament to spare.

Belfast Telegraph

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