The end, when it came, didn’t require Seán Keeling to use his putter.
All of the work had been done, with some sensational shot-making by the 16-year-old Dubliner; so, when Will Hartman’s attempted recovery from thick greenside rough on the Par 4 16th hole skated across the green and beyond into the water hazard, all that was required was for the two to shake hands as Keeling claimed an impressive 4 and 2 win as his contribution to Europe’s dominant victory over the United States in the Junior Solheim Cup.
Europe’s win – the first since 2004 over the Americans, when Rory McIlroy was part of the team – was all but certain heading into the final day’s singles at Marco Simone Golf Club.
A whitewash of Wednesday’s fourballs had given Stephen Gallacher’s team a six-point advantage going into the 12 singles and his players drawn from all over the Continent – Italy, Germany, Scotland, Ukraine, England, Sweden, Spain and Ireland – delivered in fine style for an overall 20½ to 9½ win over the USA.
“It’s been my privilege to see future world number ones this week,” said Gallacher of the boys and girls who showcased their talents.
Keeling, the lone Irish player in the team, stood out for more reason that simply forgoing a cap so that his coiffured red hair gave him a distinctive presence.
On the first tee, came evidence of a large Irish support that would follow him on his journey.
“Once you step on the tee, you can kind of feel your heart coming out of your chest a little bit. But it’s all good nerves,” he recalled.
After a shaky start when he failed to find the fairway and instead had to deal with the lush, clinging rough (to be two down through three), the Roganstown golfer produced a series of shot-making and execution that turned the match his way totally.
In truth, Keeling stood out for the fact that he produced three eagles in his comprehensive win.
Firstly, he drove the green – from 302 yards – on the Par 4 fifth hole. It was a stunningly executed shot that cleared the water and settled onto the green to finish 10 feet from the pin. Among those watching on were Rory McIlroy’s father, Gerry, and coach, Michael Bannon. It forced Hartman’s hand, and his ball was destined for a watery grave from the moment it left the clubface. Eagle number one, conceded.
When Keeling stood on the ninth tee, he was one down. But a perfect drive was followed by a 3-wood approach from 270 yards, up the hill, to seven feet. He rolled in the eagle putt.
“That shot flipped it and after that I just went off and played really good,” said Keeling.
Good? Make it great.
On the Par 5 12th, he hit a six-iron approach dead for yet another eagle to claim a fourth straight hole and move into a three-hole lead and turned into a 4 and 2 win when Hartman’s final act of the Junior Ryder Cup was to put his recovery into the water with Keeling safely on the green in two.
Keeling, and the rest of the European Junior Ryder Cup team, get to stay on for the real deal over the next three days and with his appetite whetted for the future.
“I learned that I can perform on a big stage. I think it will give me a lot of confidence knowing I can play in front of all these people in front of the stands and perform well. So I think it’s just going to give me a lot of confidence,” said Keeling, who is in fifth year in Belvedere College and with time on his side before deciding if college or professional golf awaits post Leaving Cert.
For now, it’s about savouring a special time in his amateur career.