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Ulster quartet step up Irish title bid

Happy days: Galgorm Castle’s Joshua Hill celebrates winning the Leinster Boys Amateur Open Championship
Happy days: Galgorm Castle’s Joshua Hill celebrates winning the Leinster Boys Amateur Open Championship

By Paul Kelly

Clandeboye's Jessica Ross battled past Molly Dowling (Lucan) to seal her spot in the last 16 of the Irish Women's Close Championship at Woodbrook Golf Club yesterday.

Ross, the leading qualifier, was two down with five holes remaining but birdied 14, 16, 17 and the 18th to win by two holes.

Paula Grant (Lisburn), Lauren Walsh (Castlewarden) and Annabel Wilson (Lurgan), who is back in action after completing her A-Level exams, all eased through their first-round matches.

Wilson said: "The big one for me this week was to enjoy myself and have no expectations because I don't know how I'm playing, but so far I'm really happy."

At Portmarnock, James Sugrue (Mallow GC) is chasing a home victory today when he faces Scotland's Euan Walker in the final of the 124th Amateur Championship.

The 22-year-old thrilled the Irish crowds watching the semi by knocking out the top-ranked player, David Micheluzzi from Australia, to seal his place in the 36-hole showdown.

"It's unbelievable. It hasn't sunk in yet. To think if I win tomorrow I'll be playing in Major championships like The Open is incredible," said Sugrue.

"I'm really, really delighted. I know I have 36 holes tomorrow but it's hard not to think about things when you have a massive, massive prize at the end. But I'm going to try and keep my cool and play it hole by hole."

The winner secures exemptions into The Open at Royal Portrush next month, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters.

Elsewhere, Galgorm Castle's Joshua Hill fired rounds of 70 and 69 (-5) to win the Leinster Boys Under-16 Open at Beaverstown GC by four shots.

Meanwhile, Martin Kaymer continued his recent encouraging form with a second-round 66 to open up a two-shot lead heading into the weekend on home soil at the BMW International Open.

The two-time Major winner has not claimed a victory since his triumph at the 2014 US Open but has secured top 10s on both sides of the Atlantic in the last two months as he seeks a return to the form that made him World No.1.

Backed by bumper crowds in Munich, he carded a 67 on day one and followed that with a 66 to move to 11-under and lead the way from South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

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