The ‘home’ challenge ran into trouble on day four of the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush on Thursday.
Four players from the host club were in action yesterday raising hopes of a first win for the club since Patrick McCrudden in 2011 but, one by one, they all bowed out.
At the end of the day, Ulster hopes were left in the hands of leading qualifier Matthew McClean (Malone) and Adam Mulhall (Ardglass).
This is uncharted territory for McClean who reached the last 16 in 2014 before losing to eventual winner, Chris Selfridge.
“I felt happy enough today, surprisingly, I had minimal nerves,” said the 25-year-old optometrist who beat Barry Cashman (Belvoir Park) in the quarter-finals yesterday afternoon.
“Overall today I made a lot of good pars but missed some birdie chances.
“I didn’t miss a huge amount of greens and that will be hard to beat if you can do that for hopefully two rounds tomorrow.”
With seven visits to the ‘North’ under his belt, McClean is by far the most experienced of the four semi-finalists. That’s in contrast to today’s opponent, Ian Lynch (Rosslare), who conceded yesterday that two rounds in a day was ‘the most golf I have played in a long time’.
The 29-year-old software engineer is enjoying his best championship run and managed to beat Eanna Griffin (Waterford) on the 19th to reach the last four.
“Everything now is a bonus, I love it here,” said Lynch who has never qualified for the match-play stages in four visits to the North.
“I like to be attacking and hit driver everywhere. If it comes off, it comes off. I don’t do laying up.”
In the other semi-final Adam Mulhall (Ardglass) will play English visitor Kieran Babbage (The Players Club). Mulhall will become a trainee professional at Ardglass GC in October and would love to bow out of amateur golf with a win.
“It’s a bit of a surprise to get this far,” said the 22-year-old who recently graduated from Stirling University with a degree in Sports Science.
“I knew I was capable but it was a just a matter of putting it all together.”
Mulhall knocked out Tyrone Clarke, son of Open Champion, Darren, in the last eight yesterday while today’s opponent, Babbage, knocked out another home favourite Matt McAlpin.
“This is my first visit to play in the North of Ireland. I have never played in any events here,” said the 21-year-old.
“It’s pot luck that I am here at all. I was with my mate Dan Sheehan and he encouraged me to enter.
“I didn’t even know the tournament existed but when he said it was at Portrush, I was like definitely, I will come and play!”
Ian Lynch (Rosslare) bt Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 19th
Matthew McClean (Malone) bt Barry Cashman (Belvoir Park) 4&3
Kieran Babbage (The Players Club) bt Matthew McAlpin (Royal Portrush) 1hle
Adam Mulhall (Ardglass) bt Tyrone Clarke (Royal Portrush) 3&1
8.15am – Lynch v McClean
8.30am – Babbage v Mulhall