Impressive Stuart Bleakley the South of Ireland champion

Shandon Park man defeats Portmarnock’s Darragh Coghlan 3&2 in the final at Lahinch

Twelve months after being ousted in the first round in the first match on the first morning, Shandon Park's Stuart Bleakley was the last man standing at Lahinch as he become the third player from the great Belfast club to capture the Clare Coast Hotels sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.

The burly 19-year-old proved to be the strongest man in every sense when he started like a train, overcame a small wobble and then finished nervelessly on a rain-soaked afternoon to beat Portmarnock’s Darragh Coghlan 3 and 2.

That Shandon Park legends David Long and Neil Anderson won the title in 1974 and 1984 respectively was not lost on the champion as he went in to lunch following a 3 and 2 defeat of Waterford's Eanna Griffin in the semi-final.

Kick on

"When I looked up at the board at lunch time I saw Davy Long won it in '74 and Neil Anderson in '84 and with this being 2014, I thought it was fitting," he said as his caddie and father, the PGA pro Geoff Bleakley, looked on proudly.

Bleakley started par-birdie-birdie-eagle and was five under through six as he beat Griffin in the morning. And with his first title in the bag, he’s hoping to kick on now and win more.

“I finally worked out about six months ago that you have to do a lot of practice to go quite far in this game.”

He got off to another hot start in the final against Coghlan, who had come back from two down after nine to beat his close friend Richard Knightly of Royal Dublin by 2 and 1 in his semi-final.

But the solid ball-striking that was there in the morning was absent early in the decider as Coghlan bogeyed the first, conceded the second to a sensational tap in eagle by Bleakley and then lipped out for par at the third to fall three down.

“My ball striking just wasn’t there,” Coghlan said of his slow start. “I suppose the occasion just got to me because it was there all week . . . .”

Battled back

But he battled back to one down with nine to go before Bleakley – and a torrential back nine rain shower – ultimately proved too much.

Two down after a Bleakley’s win in par at the 10th, he got back to one down through 12 but three-putted the 13th and 14th in the worst of the weather to fall three behind again.

When Bleakley converted a six-foot putt for a half in par at the 15th, Coghlan needed something special to happen. But Bleakley produced it, splashing out to three feet at the 16th and holing the putt to seal his biggest victory yet.