Thursday, June 17, 2010

Banchory's James Byrne only Scot in quarter-finals




Eight players from seven nations are through to the quarter-finals of the 2010 Amateur Championship at Muirfield. All four home nations are represented, along with Italy, France and Korea.
First through to the last eight was England’s Matthew Nixon, defeating Tommy Fleetwood with a birdie 3 at the 18th to win by one hole. The 21-year-old former Boys Amateur Champion, pictured above with the trophy at Royal Aberdeen GC in 2006, who earlier in the day had eased past Denmark’s Peter Baunsoe 3 and 2, faced an altogether tougher task against the world number nine.
“It was a bit of a struggle out there,” explained Nixon, “nip and tuck all the way. I hit a lot of greens today and I played quite well.”
Magnanimous in defeat, Fleetwood said: “I’ve played the Amateur twice before this, and I’ve lost to the winner both times. He’s one of my best mates, so I hope he goes all the way.”
Nixon will play Rhys Enoch in the fourth round. This morning, the Welshman was a three-foot putt away from making his Amateur Championship exit against Jordan Findlay of Scotland. But Findlay missed and handed his one-time East Tennessee State University team-mate another chance. He grasped it at the 19th hole. In the afternoon, Enoch overcame Bolivia’s Sebastian Maclean 2 and 1.
“I definitely feared the worst this morning. I was really struggling, but somehow I got through it and found something this afternoon,” he said. “My short game and putting is very sharp right now and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Scottish hopes are very much alive in the form of James Byrne, who negotiated his way through to the last eight after victories over Germany’s Stephan Jaeger and Englishman Alex Christie. The Arizona State University junior, 21, is hoping to become the first winner on home soil since Stuart Wilson at St Andrews in 2004.
“I had high hopes of doing well this week. I’m playing steady golf – I was about two under par today. I had a good summer last year and I feel like I’ve got the game to do well again,” said Byrne, a quarter-finalist last year at Formby.
Completing the quartet of home internationals is Northern Ireland’s Paul Cutler who made his way to the last eight courtesy of a one-hole victory over Scotland's Michael Stewart and a 3 and ;2 triumph against Japan’s Yuki Usami.
Despite having had little links experience Jin Jeong has arguably been the most impressive international player this week. Today he defeated the 2010 Scottish Open Stroke Play Champion, France’s Romain Wattel, 4 and 3 in the morning, and 2009 Boys Amateur Champion Tom Lewis by one hole in the afternoon.
The South Korean, who currently occupies 10th place in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, said: “It was a really tight match and we both played really well, but I was quite nervous at the end. I’ve been playing well all week, so I just need to do the same tomorrow.”
Completing the quarter-finalists are France’s Edouard Espana, Chris Paisley of England – the only Walker Cup player to make it to this stage of the competition – and Italian Andrea Pavan, the latter defeating England’s Darren Wright by one hole in the final match of the day.
“It feels good to get through,” said the Italian. “The drive on 18 this afternoon was a really great shot. 18 is a pretty tough hole, so just hitting it down the middle, then hitting the green when you need to it is a good feeling. Perhaps tomorrow will be better still.”
The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played tomorrow at Muirfield, with the morning round getting underway at 8.15am and the afternoon’s play commencing at 1.00pm.
The 36-hole final will be played on Saturday. The winner will receive exemption into the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and a Masters Tournament invitation.

James Byrne is holing the putts that matter at Muirfield

By Martin Dempster
With the iconic clubhouse of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers providing a spectacular backdrop, James Byrne picked the perfect moment to show that Scottish golfers maybe aren't poor putters after all.
Much has been made of Scots underperforming with the flat stick in their hands in recent years, but Byrne, pictured by Cal Carson Golf Agency, perhaps helped by the fact he gets to play and practise on decent surfaces most of the time at Arizona State University, is holing the putts that matter in the Amateur Championship at Muirfield.
In his third-round morning match against Germany's Stephan Jaeger, the 21-year-old from Banchory rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt under intense pressure on the last to clinch victory, keeping Scottish interest alive in the process following earlier defeats for his countrymen, Jordan Findlay and Michael Stewart.
Byrne then beat Alex Christie, one of seven English players to make it to the last 16, by 2 and 1 in the afternoon and now meets Frenchman Edouard Espana, who, based on his two Thursday wins  over Walker Cup squad members Stiggy Hodgson and Alan Dunbar, will be a dangerous opponent for the Scot in the quarter-finals.
"They are the kind of putts you need to hole to get you going," said Byrne of the downhill effort that also had a six-inch break on it.
The Morth-east player, who admits he was drawn to Arizona State by the fact Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Pat Perez, Grace Park and Anna Nordqvist among others went there, too, before going on to become successful Tour professionals, is unfazed by being the home man left carrying the Saltire in East Lothian.
"The nerves I am feeling are good ones and help me focus when I need to," said Byrne, who has already gone one better than 12 months ago, when he reached the last 16 at Formby.
Golf, meanwhile, has been put into perspective for England's Matthew Nixon and Welshman Rhys Enoch, who meet this morning in another of the quarter-finals. Both have suffered huge heartache in the last year or so, Nixon's 19-year-old girlfriend dying from cancer and Enoch's younger brother, a talented golfer himself, being killed in a car crash.
Nixon, 21, who won the British Boys' Championship at Royal Aberdeen four years ago, claimed the scalp of leading qualifier Tommy Fleetwood, one of the players, ironically, who helped him get back playing golf after a testing time in his young life.
"I had a month off earlier in the year after losing my girlfriend to cancer just after Christmas," said the Ashton-under-Lyne player. "Her name was Anja Barnacott and she was 19. She started having chemotherapy in April, just after I met her. She had stem cell transplant but had a relapse and went back into hospital. That was on November 19 and they said she'd be in for a month but never came out.
"It wasn't a nice thing to experience but it has made me a stronger person. I had some good friends who helped me through it and I probably wouldn't be here just now without their support. It put my life into perspective – golf is just a game now.
Nixon clinched his one-hole win over Fleetwood, beaten finalist at Turnberry two years ago, by hitting a majestic approach to three-and-a-half feet at the last. "Tommy has twice beaten me in Lanacashire county finals so it is about time I got one over on him," noted Nixon.
Enoch's brother, Ben, was on his way to play a practice round for the Lytham Trophy a year past April when he was killed in a car crash. "For a while afterwards you don't really care about anything," admitted Rhys, who has the word 'BEEN', his brother's nickname, embroidered on his East Tennessee State University shirt in his memory.
In his morning match with Findlay, Enoch, who was one down with one to play, looked to be heading for an exit when he produced an untimely shank. But, helped by a decent lie in the thick rough, the 22-year-old was able to make a 5, good enough to force extra-time after Findlay, who had been bunkered off the tee, then three-putted from 35 feet.
Both players were through the back at the 19th after getting flyers from rough with their second shots but Enoch, who had a much easier lie than the Scot, salvaged a par to go through.
Up against Paul Cutler, the Irishman who won the Lytham Trophy this year, Stewart covered the last ten holes in four-under-par and eagled the long 17th to square matters only for his opponent to hole from eight feet for a match-winning birdie at the last.

Upper Half
Tommy Fleetwood (Formby Hall) bt Rasmus Lykke-Kjeldsen (Denmark) 4 and 3.
Matthew Nixon (Ashton-under-Lyne) bt Peter Baunsoe (Denmark) 3 and 2.
Sebastian MacLean (Bolivia) bt Henrik Norlander (Sweden) 1 hole.
Rhys Enoch (Truro) bt Jordan Findlay (Fraserburgh) at 19th.
Tom Lewis (Welwyn Garden City) bt Jonathan Hurst (Shaw Hill) 2 and 1.
Jin Jeong (South Korea) bt Romain Wattel (France) 4 and 3.
Paul Cutler (Portstewart) bt Michael Stewart (Troon Welbeck) 1 hole.
Yuki Usami (Japan) bt Kieran Pratt (Australia) 6 and 4.
Lower Half
Alan Dunbar (Rathmore) bt James Fox (Portmarnock) 2 and 1.
Edouard Espana (France) bt Stiggy Hodgson 5 and 4.
Alex Christie (Tyrrells Wood) bt Alexis Szappanos (Germany) at 19th.
James Byrne (Banchory) bt Stephan Jaeger (Germany) 1 hole.
Billy Hemstock (Teignmouth) bt Are Friestad (Norway) 5 and 3.
Chris Paisley (Stocksfield) bt Toby Burden (Hayling) 2 and 1.
Andrea Pavan (Italy) bt Morten Orum Madsen (Denmark) 1 hole.
Darren Wright (Rowlands Castle) bt Jose Maria Joia (Portugal) 2 and 1.

Matthew Nixon (Ashton-under-Lyne) bt Tommy Fleetwood (Formby Hall) 1 hole.
Rhys Enoch (Truro) bt Sebastian MacLean (Bolivia) 2 and 1.
Jin Jeong (South Korea) bt Tom Lewis (Welwyn Garden City) 1 hole.
Paul Cutler (Portstewart) bt Yuki Usami (Japan) 3 and 2.
Edouard Espana (France) bt Alan Dunbar (Rathmore) at 19th.
James Byrne (Banchory) bt Alex Christie (Tyrrells Wood) 2 and 1.
Chris Paisley (Stocksfield) bt Billy Hemstock (Teignmouth) at 19th.
Andrea Pavan (Italy) bt Darren Wright (Rowlands Castle) 1 hole.

Nixon v Enoch
Jeong v Cutler
Espana v Byrne
Paisley v Pavan



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