Peter O’Keeffe staged a huge recovery at the North of Ireland today, jumping over 100 places on the leaderboard to make it into the matchplay stage of the provincial championship. O’Keeffe, who only arrived in Portstewart yesterday after a week in Lahinch, needed to dig deep after an opening 78 (+5) in Castlerock yesterday. And the big hitting Douglas golfer did just that, shooting a three under par 69 to finish inside the top 40, with two shots to spare from the cut mark of +4. It wasn’t plain sailing for O’Keeffe on Portstewart’s Strand course, host of the 2017 Irish Open. The 2017 Irish Open winner was two over after three holes, but two birdies and an eagle over the next four holes got him back in track. A handful of pars followed until he dropped two more birdies on the 14th and 17th. A bogey on the last meant he signed for a 69 and at that stage O’Keeffe was thinking it may not be enough to get through. At that stage he was 48th in the clubhouse, but as the afternoon and evening scores came in his position improved to 38th, safely inside the top 64.
North Cork’s Paul Buckley has played in most of the championships this year, and he put together two solid rounds to also make the matchplay stage. A 74 (+1) yesterday in Castlerock had him just inside the top 60, and a level par 72 today saw him finish just inside the top half of the draw. Kinsale’s Cathal Butler was the only other Cork golfer to make it through. While Butler has more than a few impressive round scores, he’s struggled with consistency, partly down to an ongoing back issue. He found that consistency today, adding a 75 to his impressive 73 from yesterday. He finished the strokeplay stage in 54th place, with a shot to spare on the top 64 cut. There was no joy for Paul Tobin and John Murphy who both finished on +7, while Eric Rumley and Christopher Taylor both finished down the field.
The first two matchplay rounds get underway tomorrow morning, selected matches:
8.03am: Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) v Eoghan Collins (Laytown & Bettystown)
11.21am: Barry Cashman (Belvoir Park) v Paul Buckley (Memorial)
11.30am Aaron Edwards Hill (Chelmsford) v Cathal Butler (Kinsale)