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Dawson puts himself in driving seat for Royal County Down joy

 

By Paul Kelly

Ireland's top-ranked amateur, Robin Dawson (Tramore), blasted a superb six-under-par 65 to lead the Flogas Irish Amateur at Royal County Down yesterday.

The 22-year-old jumped out to a three-shot lead over England's Alex Fitzpatrick and another Irish international, Alex Gleeson.

"It was a really nice round, I wasn't expecting that when I stood on the first tee," said Dawson. "I just had a good strategy and played one shot at a time.

"I only played nine holes in practice because it was so windy and it wasn't going to be the same as the rest of the week."

Defending champion Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) looked in all sorts of trouble after reaching the turn in four-over 39 but hit back on the back nine, coming home in four-under 32 to sign for a 71 and a share of 18th place.

Cairndhu's Stephen Watts is the best placed of the Ulster contenders. He had a triple-bogey on the opening hole when he hit his teeshot onto the beach but settled to post a one-under-par 70, good enough for a share of 12th.

Play resumes today with the top 50 and ties progressing to the final round on Sunday following a 54-hole cut.

Meanwhile, Lahinch Golf Club in Co Clare has been chosen to host the Irish Open next year.

The European Tour confirmed yesterday that the event would be coming to the Banner County for the first time in its 91-year history from July 4-7.

As a Rolex Series event, the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will once again feature a minimum prize fund of $7m.

Paul McGinley will host, taking over from Rory McIlroy.

Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC) claimed the PGA Irish Club Professional title sponsored by Carr Golf in dramatic style at Dromoland Castle yesterday.

The 31-year-old eagled the opening hole of a play-off to edge out Eamonn Brady (Clontarf) after they both finished the 36-hole event on four under par.

"I played really nicely but I knew that I had to go out all guns blazing after a poor performance on day one," said O'Briain, the 2017-18 Sunshine Tour rookie.

"It was playing tough, especially in round one. The wind is always swirling around and it can catch you out."

• Ireland are closing in on a third successive International King's Cup victory following the second day at Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh.

Ireland dominated yesterday's six greensomes matches to take a huge advantage into today's final day singles matches.

Supported by Tourism NI, the International King's Cup is a Ryder Cup-style tournament which honours golf's greatest ambassador, Arnold Palmer.

Under King's Cup rules, players receive two points for a hole won, one point each for a hole halved and nothing for a lost hole. With 864 points on offer over three days of the competition, the first side to reach 433 points will collect the title.

Going into today's 12 singles, Ireland have already amassed 257 points with their opponents lagging behind on 175 points.

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