Benoni’s Dean O’Riley emerged from a tight five-way battle as the outright leader in the IGT Tour’s Killarney Challenge after another testing day at Killarney Country Club saw just seven of the 50 players who made the cut, break par.
O’Riley was five shots behind overnight leader Warrick Druian at the start of day three, but an opening birdie and an eagle three at the fifth rocketed him into contention alongside Druian, Duane Keun, Carrie Park and Matthew Spacey.
The 27-year-old from Ebotse birdied 15 and 17 to win the tussle with a four-under-par 66 to post a three under par leading total.
Keun closed with a 68 to finish one shot back, Park produced a trio of birdies for a 68 over the last three holes clock in two off the pace and Spacey signed for a 73 to finish in fourth on even-par.
Simon Kruger posted 70 to finish alone in fifth on one over, Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland is a further stroke back after a 72 and Druian – the leader through the first two rounds – stayed in touch with a flawless front nine, but his title bid hit the skids on the inward loop, resulting in an expensive 77. The 46-year-old followed a trio of bogeys after the turn with a double bogey at 16 and a quadruple bogey at 18 saw him finish at three over.
O’Riley has been polishing his swing since April and the hard work showed promising results when he tied for fourth in the Ebotse Challenge last month. Although he didn’t burn up the course in the opening round at Killarney, a 67 in round two and the third round 66 put O’Riley in a very positive frame of mind.
“My ball striking the last two days has been really good, especially the irons into the greens,” he said. “I hit 15 greens in regulation today, but the putter is still too cold. I had 32 putts every round, and I need that number to improve. In today’s round, I had seven birdie chances that should have dropped, so it’s a little frustrating, but the key is to stay patient.
“I manage to start strong with the birdie at the first, and I chipped in at the par five after I hit my four-iron approach a little too heavy and left myself 30 metres short of the green. I put myself in a good position at the other par five on the back nine (15) and two-putted for birdie and holed a nice putt for birdie at the short hole (17).”
O’Reilly will be fighting for a card on the Sunshine Tour at Qualifying School next March and said he valued the chance to play the venue that will host the First Stage next March.
“It’s always good to get an early look at the venue, so you know what to expect,” he said. “Killarney is a tough layout, with wicked fast greens. Anything off line or over the greens or past the flag is a punishable offence. The downhill putts are ridiculously fast, so you don’t want to hit it past the flag. You want to play for an uphill putt where possible.
“The course set-up this week is what you should expect this time of the season – tough, but fair – so I am not surprised to see so few players below par. This is going to be a tough qualifying venue and I think only guys who finish the week below par, will make it to the final stage. This is the time when the aspirant pros need to take a breath and think long and hard whether they are really ready to switch to the pro ranks.”
THIRD ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
207 – Dean O’Riley 74 67 66
208 – Duane Keun 72 68 68
209 – Carrie Park 70 71 68
210 – Matthew Spacey 72 65 73
211 – Simon Kruger 72 69 70