Hugh Foley secures an emotional victory in the West of Ireland

Royal Dublin golfer dedicates big win to his late father in soaking conditions in Sligo

Hugh Foley secured an emotional victory in the West of Ireland. Photograph: Getty

Hugh Foley secured an emotional victory in the West of Ireland. Photograph: Getty

 

The rangy 24-year-old Dubliner was one stroke behind Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan at halfway before he spectacularly separated himself from the field in the third round and fired a five-under 66 for a five-shot lead over the halfway leader on 11-under par.

County Sligo’s TJ Ford briefly closed the gap to three shots when Foley bogeyed the first in the afternoon and the local man opened with three successive birdies.

But as Ford’s challenge ended with triple bogey at the ninth, Foley kept thoughts of winning to the back of his mind and closed with a two-over 73 to win by five shots on nine-under from Galway’s Liam Nolan, who shot an incredible, bogey-free 66 to tie for second with Coughlan, who shot 73 in torrential afternoon rain.

“I’m speechless,” said Foley who won the Close at Rosapenna last year but lost his father, the cardiologist Prof David Foley, in January.

“Just like the Close, I didn’t let myself think about it but kept dragging myself back to the present, stayed in the hole every hole and didn’t really enjoy it until the ball was on the green at the last.

“I was crying on 18 there. As soon as I was in contention, I had to stop myself thinking about (my Dad) and getting emotional on the course but I did well to drag myself back in and then let it all out afterwards.

“I am dedicating it to him. With some of the bounces I got and some of the putts I holed, if he’s watching, he’s smiling.”

Foley’s third round was key to his victory as he birdied the third, fourth, fifth and sixth to race ahead, saved pars at the eighth and ninth and then birdied the 10th and 11th then knocked in a 40 footer at the 15th to go seven shots ahead before those late bogeys reduced his lead to five.

Steadied the ship

He had to make a 30 footer for bogey at the first after slashing out of rough into a fairway bunker on the other side of the fairway but steadied the ship with birdies at the third and fifth before the heavens opened. After bogeys at the seventh and eighth, he made a 30 footer for par at the ninth to turn four shots clear of the dogged Coughlan, then all but closed out the title when he birdied the 12th from close range and hit an eight iron to a few inches in horrendous rain at the 13th to go six ahead.

“I played great this morning,” he said. “I hit it close as well as holing a lot of putts. I bogeyed the last two but they were playing tough. So that made it a little more stressful. But I played great the first three rounds and decent in stretches in the rain this afternoon.” Ford finished seventh, eighth behind in the end after a 74 but finished third in the Bridgestone Order of Merit to secure a place on the Irish team for the Home Internationals.

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