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Ulster ace Norton fires way into contention


By Paul Kelly

Belvoir Park's Marc Norton fired a three under par 68 to force his way into contention on the second day of the Irish Amateur Championship at Royal County Down.

The 19-year-old, who opened with a one over par 72, moved up 23 places to end the day in a share of third on two under par alongside Scotland's Christopher MacLean and fellow Irish player Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas).

South African Kyle McClatchie and Englishman Sean Towndrow lead on three under after a calm day at the famous links course.

"I started off great and was three under after four," said Norton, who has completed his second year of studies at Oakland University in Michigan.

"On nine I had to hack out sideways and holed my third shot from 124 yards - that helped.

"Coming in I played solidly and I holed a long one on the last for birdie."

Norton won the Leinster Youth title at Esker Hills last year but is making his debut at this level.

"I know I am playing good, the swing feels good and I am holing a few putts," he added.

"The conditions have been good, the set-up has been very generous to be honest, it can be a lot worse down here. I wasn't expecting it to be so good today so I had to make the most of it."

Joint leader Towndrow is delighted to be in contention after spending a year out, recovering from a rare form of cancer.

"I had lymphatic cancer last year. Hopefully I'm all clear now. I'm still having a few tests. It's about nine months since I finished treatment so I just got back into golf in early February," said the 26-year-old who added a round of 70 to his opening 69.

"It just came out of nowhere, I was just feeling a bit tired towards the end of 2015 and then I got diagnosed in early 2016. I had a massive pain in my chest because I had a tumour in the front of my chest. Golf has a different meaning now. I'm just trying to get my fitness back, the more rounds I can play the better."

McClatchie followed up his opening round 68 with a battling level par 71.

"It's been lots of fun the last two days," said the 19-year-old.

"I will just try to get myself into a good position for the last nine holes."

Overnight leader Nicholas Poppleton fired a five over par second round 76 to finish the day in a share of 14th.

Round three starts at 7am with the top 50 and ties progressing to the final round tomorrow.

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