Conor Purcell strikes it big on debut senior year

19-year-old beats Rowan Lester to take South of Ireland at Lahinch

Forty-three years after his father Joey claimed his first Irish cap with a masterful performance in the Interprovincial matches, 19-year-old Conor Purcell claimed what he hopes will be "the first of many" trophies by winning the Pierse Motors- sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Lahinch.

The compact but athletically built son of Portmarnock's head professional is only making his debut in senior golf this year. But he has made his mark in double quick time, producing a string of high quality displays en route to a 4 & 3 victory over Hermitage international Rowan Lester and what must be a certain call up for next month's Home Internationals.

Purcell had not had to go beyond the 17th in his opening four matches but when he came back from one down with three to play to beat Irish Amateur Open champion Colm Campbell by one hole – his spectacular two at the 16th and hold up approach to the 17th were key shots – it was clear that he was going to take some shifting

Winning birdie

Lester (20) looked to be heading out to Castle’s


Daniel Holland

in the semi-finals but he took the match to the 19th where he holed an unlikely, downwind 20 footer from the swale left of the green for a winning birdie three.

In the final, played in a steady 25 mph west wind that gusted well over 30mph at times, it was Purcell’s superior ball-striking that eventually won the day and a quality championship against a talented opponent in front of a good crowd.

After halves in bogey at the first and birdie at the second, Purcell got up and down from short of the third to win the hole in par after Lester had tangled with the right rough off the tee.

The Dubliner then eagled the Klondyke with a short iron to 12 feet to go two up. He looked to be cruising but three bogeys in a row saw him pegged back to all square before he hit what was arguably the match winning shot at the 166-yard eighth. With the wind whipping hard from the left, he drew a magnificent eight iron, arrow-straight at the pin and popped in the four foot for birdie to go one up.

When he birdied the ninth from 10 feet to go two up and then rattled the pin with his chip at the 10th to save bogey, Lester failed to claw back a hole there and lost the par-three 11th to a Purcell par and the downwind 12th to a two-putt birdie four to find himself four down.

Two solid par fours were enough to close out a convincing victory for the youngster.

As for his win and his general level of confidence, Purcell said: “Confident? I am very confident. I feel I have a good bit of experience with boys golf. Hopefully this is the first of many [wins].”