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Simon Thornton stays in NI Masters title mix as Jonathan Caldwell makes cut


No trouble: Jonathan Caldwell hit a one-under 70 to safely make it through. Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images

No trouble: Jonathan Caldwell hit a one-under 70 to safely make it through. Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images

Getty Images

No trouble: Jonathan Caldwell hit a one-under 70 to safely make it through. Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images

Despite a swing of 12 shots between his first and second rounds, Newcastle’s Simon Thornton will head into the final day of the NI Masters at Clandeboye one shot off the lead.

The Tulfarris professional, only competing in the EuroPro Tour event on a PGA invite, almost made history on Wednesday when he missed out on the Tour’s first ever sub-60 round, settling for ‘just’ an 11-under 61, a feat he was always going to find tough to match second time around, and so it proved.

Thornton still had two birdies yesterday, but they were accompanied by a bogey and a double bogey on his opening hole in a one-over 72 which leaves him 10 under for the week and one back of leader Joe Brooks with 18 holes to play.

The Englishman, who opened with a five-under 66 on Wednesday, went one better in his second round, a bogey-free 65 consisting of six birdies to move onto 11 under and within touching distance of his first ever professional victory.

However, the main threat could lurk in third place in the form of England’s Mitch Waite, who leads the EuroPro Tour’s Order of Merit and knows that a win at Clandeboye would all but guarantee himself a top-five finish in the season standings and a Challenge Tour card for next season.

The Filton man was on song on day two, too, going pin-seeking as he carded seven birdies on his way to a five under 66 that has him at nine under, two back of Brooks at the top.

From a local perspective, tournament host Jonathan Caldwell didn’t let down a large home crowd that followed his every shot on day two as he made the cut after a one-under 70 put him three under for the week, although he is likely too far back to make a spectacular comeback today.

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Joining him for the final round will be Whitehead’s John-Ross Galbraith, who snapped a run of eight straight missed cuts by qualifying for the last day with a one-under 70 in his second round, which leaves him one under overall, too.

But the only Northern Ireland stars to make it in for the final round are Thornton, Caldwell and Galbraith after the level-par cut fell too high for the rest of the local players in the field.

The one who will likely be most disappointed will be Dermot McElroy, who was hoping to back up last week’s win at the Cubefunder Championship with another big week at home but will instead have today off after a bogey at the 18th saw him card a two-over 73 and miss out by one shot at one over.

Clandeboye’s own Colin Fairweather was the only other player who came relatively close to making the cut, but his level-par 71 was only good enough to keep him four over, while Blackwood’s Stuart Bleakley had a 73 to finish seven over.

Meanwhile, it’s an Ulster-dominated leaderboard at the Irish Under-16 Boys’ Open at Cahir Park, where Malone’s Adam Buchanan maintained his overnight advantage and leads by two with one round to play.

Buchanan lies on two under after adding a two-over 73 to his opening 67, with Warrenpoint’s Harry McArdle and Massereene’s Noah Bickerstaff among his nearest challengers at level-par, while Belvoir Park’s Darcy Hogg is a shot further back at one over.

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