Colm Campbell claims East of Ireland title by two-stroke margin
Warrenpoint player says uncle Paddy Gribben’s caddying was a factor in victory
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell drives at the 16th during the final round of the East of Ireland at Co Louth Golf Club yesterday. Photograph: Pat Cashman
If the weather showed fickleness, mixing rain showers with sunny spells, there was only a unswerving stubbornness displayed by Colm Campbell. It proved to be an admirable trait, as the 27-year-old from Warrenpoint stuck to his task to claim the East of Ireland amateur championship by a two-stroke margin from defending champion Paul Dunne.
“That’s the icing on the cake, it is what I have always been working towards. One of these championships isn’t easy come by, there’s a lot of great players out there,” said Campbell, who shot rounds of 68 and 74 on a long, tough final day for a 72-hole aggregate of 282, six-under par, to claim one of domestic golf’s big championships.
With his uncle Paddy Gribben on his bag, Campbell – who reapplied himself to the game over the winter months after a disappointing season in 2013 – showed mental fortitude to go with a good all-round game. In particular, his putting proved to be critical with a string of par saving putts on the homeward run to fend off Dunne.
Gribben, a former European amateur champion and a one-time tour professional, was as delighted with his nephew’s achievement as with his own accomplishments. “I’ve watched him grow up and just to see that happening is fantastic. I never won the east but that was as good as any win . . . with the work he’s put in this year, he deserves every bit of this success,” said Gribben.
Play a roleIn the morning, Campbell holed-out with a seven iron on the 167-yard 15th for an ace that suggested fate would play a role in his achieving his career ambition. It meant he started the final round with a four-stroke cushion over his nearest challenger Gary O’Flaherty from Cork, with Dunne – also playing in the final threeball – also lurking with menace.
As it happened, Campbell got off to a nervy start to the final round with a double-bogey seven on the third and a bogey on the fourth after his tee-shot to the par three found a greenside bunker. From being in control, he now found himself tied with O’Flaherty and, then, back-to-back birdies from Dunne brought him to within a shot of Campbell’s lead as they walked to the seventh tee.
The par three seventh, though, proved to be where Campbell reasserted control. O’Flaherty, who would go on to close with a final round 77, took a double bogey and Dunne, after coming up short of the green, failed to get up and down and bogeyed the hole. Then, on the ninth, after all three players found fairway bunkers, Campbell was the only one able to salvage a par. He turned three shots up and increased that lead to four with a 10-footer for birdie on the 10th.
His saviousOn the back nine, Campbell’s putter proved to be his saviour. Time and time again. But most critically on the 16th when, after a poor tee-shot and a recovery back to the fairway, he was left with a 20-footer up the hill to save par. The putter duly obliged and ensured he kept momentum. And on the 17th, where Dunne hit a super tee-shot in to 10 feet for another birdie, Campbell bravely sank an eight-footer to save par. “The putter kept me above water as such,” he admitted.
With a two-shot lead standing on the 18th tee, and Dunne in a fairway bunker, Campbell took the strategic decision to use a three iron off the tee to stay short of the traps. The plan was to avoid any late disasters, and the closing par enabled him to get his hands on the coveted trophy.
“I had a poor year last year and I was determined to come back fighting this year. The aim was to get a championship under the belt and thankfully I was able to do it. You can’t take this game for granted and, when you have as poor a year as I did, you realise you can’t compete in these tournaments playing that sort of golf. It was definitely a wake-up call,” said Campbell.
In acknowledging that his uncle’s presence on the bag was a huge benefit, Campbell – who next week plays in the Irish Close on the adjoining Seapoint links – said: “Paddy has been at the top and he knows what it is all about.
“He is there to give you a wee word in your ear, to keep you calm, try not to let you get too far ahead.”