England’s Paul Howard and Sean Towndrow led the way into the Quarter-Finals of the 119th Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush today.
Howard and Towndrow are both members at Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club in Merseyside and booked their places in the last eight with impressive victories. Howard defeated local player and R&A Scholar Cormac Sharvin, while Towndrow overcame strong English opponent Toby Tree.
Sharvin enjoyed a strong local following cheering him on as a member of Ardglass Golf Club in nearby County Down but Howard showed his character to take an early lead in the match.
The 23-year-old went two up after four holes, but bogeys at the sixth and seventh saw his lead wiped out. He pulled ahead again at the par-4, eighth hole when Sharvin bogeyed the hole. Then Howard stepped up the pressure. The plus 5 handicapper birdied the 10th, 11th and 14th holes to take an unassailable four-hole lead.
"It’s the best I have played all week," Howard said. "Today was the most confident I have been on the golf course. The shot that got me going was a 7-iron to two feet at the 10th to go two up."
Howard hit another 7-iron into the 11th and holed a 25-foot birdie putt. At the par-3, 14th hole, he hit a high 4-iron to 15 feet and holed that putt too. A half at the next saw him win 4&3.
Towndrow also went ahead early against Tree and was feeling in control of the match. "I was two up after five holes and that gave me a lot of confidence," he said.
Tree reduced the arrears when Towndrow stepped on his ball on the 10th hole to incur a one-shot penalty and lose the hole. Towndrow lost the 11th when Tree birdied but he hit straight back when he hit a 60-yard lob wedge to eight feet at the 15th and holed the birdie putt. Pars on the next two holes gave him a 2&1 victory.
Daniel Brown is still on track to double up as leading qualifier and Amateur Champion. Brown overcame two-time Walker Cup player Rhys Pugh 3&2 to earn a spot in the last eight. The 19-year-old dropped four straight shots from the sixth hole but still found himself three up through that stretch.
"It was a scrappy match," Brown admitted. "My ball striking hasn’t been as good over the last two days as it was in the qualifying so that’s something I need to sort out. My putting inside 10 feet has been a lot better though. I holed a lot of putts inside 10 feet to keep the pressure on him."
In the later matches Scotland’s Bradley Neil defeated Frenchman Leonard Bem 2&1 and Neil’s fellow Scot Jamie Savage eliminated Switzerland’s Mathias Eggenberger by a 3&1 margin.
Scotland’s Bradley Neil survived a tight match against France’s Leonard Bem. Neil, fought back from three down after nine holes to win 2&1.
His putting was the best I’ve ever seen in golf," Neil said. "Everything was going in for him, especially on the front nine."
However, Bem bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes and Neil birdied the 12th to get back to all square. Five straight pars from there saw him close out the match.
"I’ve just got this never say die attitude," Neil said. "I never give up until the match is lost."
Fellow Scot Jamie Savage defeated strong Swiss player Mathias Eggenberger 3&1 to advance to the last eight. Savage was two down after three holes but won the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth holes to go two up.
The turning point in the match came when Savage holed a 60-foot birdie putt at the 15th after losing the 12th and 13th to see his lead cut to one hole. "You could see the life get taken out of him when I did that," Savage said.
Savage only scraped into the match play rounds. He opened his week with a 78 at Portstewart but added a 67 at Royal Portrush to take one of the last qualifying spots. "After that first round it couldn’t have got any worse," said the plus 5-handicapper.
Haraldur Magnus is bidding to become the first golfer from Iceland to win the championship. He made it into the quarterfinals with a 2&1 victory over Formby’s Paul Kinnear.
Bobby Cole is the only South African to have won the title. He was just 18-years-old when he won the 1966 Championship at Carnoustie. Zander Lombard is looking to become the second after dispatching Windermere’s Adam Chapman by one hole.
Eighteen-year-old Conner Syme became the third Scot into the quarter-finals with a one-hole victory over Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson.
For the latest results and quarter-final draw please visit championships.randa.org.