It takes all sorts to win a green pennant. And within minutes of each other two men – one a teenager who had opted not to open his Junior Cert results until his efforts on the golf course had concluded, the other a seasoned campaigner aiming to embark on a professional career – rolled in putts on the 17th green of the O’Meara Course at Carton House to claim national titles for their respective clubs.
Firstly, Tommy Smyth, a 15-year-old student at Terenure College, Dublin, sank a 15-footer for birdie to seal the deal for Castle Golf Club in a 3-2 win over Lurgan Golf Club in the Irish Junior Cup final.
Shortly afterwards Colm Campbell stayed calm on that same putting surface to clinch a four-holes victory for Warrenpoint over Galway in the Barton Shield final.
Next week, Campbell – the Irish Amateur Open champion who has also played a pivotal role in Ireland’s retention of the Home Internationals – will set out in pursuit of a tour card when he competes in the European Tour qualifying stage one. Here, though, for Campbell it was all about the club, especially having suffered defeat on three occasions in finals since last capturing the Barton Shield in 2011.
As Campbell put it: “We’ve a good team spirit. There’s no egos, everybody gets on and everybody wants to win for each other. At the end of the day this win is right up there with anything I’ve done this year.”
Warrenpoint had been put on the back-foot straight away in this final as Galway used the opening hole, a par five of 530 yards, like a springboard: Joe Lyons and teenager Liam Power birdied to go one up on Paul Reavey and Jamie Fletcher, followed by an eagle from Stephen Brady and Ronan Mullarney over Campbell and Stevie Coulter.
Unfazed by such an opening blitz, the Warrenpoint men stayed patient and slowly gained the upper hand. “That’s the key, patience, especially in this format because it turns so quickly. You’ve just got to hang in,” said Campbell.
By the turn Warrenpoint were five holes up overall in this cumulative score format only for Galway to rally impressively. Just as it seemed as if it would go to the death, Campbell – taking advice from his partner Coulter – studied a 30-footer downhill right-to-left breaker on the par-three 16th. He seized the moment and rolled in the birdie putt to restore a one-hole lead. He finished the job with a winning par putt on the 17th that put Warrenpoint beyond reach.
There was also a touch of redemption for Castle in finally claiming the Junior Cup after a series of near-misses in the past decade or so. In the past 11 years Castle had moved on to the national stage as Leinster champions in the competition but this was the club’s first time to claim a green pennant.
Harry Gleeson and Fergal Moran – whose twin brother Kevin was also on the team – won their matches, but the outcome came down to the bottom singles involving Smyth and Andrew Cummins.
Having lost the 15th to a birdie and the 16th to a par after three-putting, the pressure was on Smyth. He proved more than up to the task. Intending to lay-up with a four-iron second shot on the par-five 17th, Smyth’s shot finished in a fairway bunker. As he eyed up his third, the roars from ahead confirmed Fergal Moran’s win over Jim McKee. Smyth then played a superb eight-iron approach to 15ft and then rolled in the birdie putt to claim victory.
Smyth got his Junior Cert results on Wednesday but did not to open them. “I said I’d wait until after the Junior Cup. I wanted to concentrate on the golf.”
In the Pierce Purcell Shield semi-finals, a 50-footer birdie by Stephen Munnelly on the 19th hole gave Castlebar a 3-2 win over Castlecomer to set up a final with Nenagh who proved too strong for Nuremore.
- (O'Meara Course, Carton House)