Peter O’Keeffe joins exclusive club with Irish Amateur win

Corkman adds the title at the European Club to his Irish Close from earlier this year

Peter O’Keeffe with the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship after winning at the European Club. Photo: Fran Caffrey/Golffile

Peter O’Keeffe with the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship after winning at the European Club. Photo: Fran Caffrey/Golffile

 

Peter O’Keeffe etched his names in the annals of Irish golf history when he combined imperious ball-striking with inspired putting to edge out Switzerland’s Nicola Gerhardsen after a three-hole aggregate playoff to add the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship title to his win in the Irish Close earlier this year.

It was a performance the Douglas player described as the best of his career, but more than his technical gifts, it was his mental strength that helped him conquer Pat Ruddy’s cerebral golfing test and become just the seventh player in history and the first since Pádraig Harrington in 1995 to do the Close-Open double in the same year.

The European Club is so demanding that it will always have its critics amongst those who fail to pass the test.

But in carding rounds of 73, 72 and 72 in difficult conditions just a month removed from his 40th birthday, O’Keeffe had the patience and the experience to overcome all the obstacles in his path.

“Yes, it’s severe, but you have to come to a golf course like this with acceptance, and I’ve seen a lot of players have come this week and haven’t accepted at all,” said the big Corkman who made a series of clutch putts down the stretch - a 10 footer for par at the 14th, a 20 footer for birdie at the 15th that brought him level with Gerhardsen and a 15 footer for par at the last that ultimately helped him force a playoff on four-over 217 as the 19-year-old Swiss missed a 12 footer for birdie and the title.

“I refer to this course as the Hunger Games of golf. The shotgun goes off, and they are dead. They were dropping like flies early, and the field got smaller and smaller. It is almost like a miniature tour school in a way with the field condensing every few hours, but if you remained in the right quarter, you could press on.”

O’Keeffe went into the final round one stroke behind Gerhardsen and Athenry’s Allan Hill on three-over-par.

But Hill’s championship ended when he lost a ball with his approach to the fourth, then plugged his fourth in a bunker and ran up a quadruple-bogey eight en route to a 79 and fifth place.

While Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley played the first 15 holes in four-under and threatened to set a tough target, he double-bogeyed the 16th and shot 69 to finish third on seven-over.

It was a two-horse race down from that point on, and the finish was an emotional rollercoaster.

Two behind the classy Gerhardsen with five holes to play, O’Keeffe crucially got up and down from sand at the 14th to remain two adrift, then birdied the 15th from 20 feet to draw level as his rival three-putted from 60 feet.

He was soon behind again after three-putting from the swale beyond the 16th, but it was the Swiss who three-putted the 17th to leave them level again.

O’Keeffe had to make a 15 footer for par at the last to stay alive and after Gerhardsen missed his 12 footer for victory, he was like an assassin in the playoff over the 18th, 10th and ninth holes.

Gerhardsen three-putted from long range at the 18th to fall behind, and after O’Keeffe made a 10 footer for par at the 10th to remain in front, he calmly two-putted the ninth as the visitor failed with a 15 footer for birdie to force sudden-death.

“I’m just elated,” said O’Keeffe, who has now won two Munster Strokeplay titles, two Irish Amateur Opens and an Irish Close and would love now to make the Walker Cup team at 42 in 2023. “That’s the best golf I’ve played in my life I’d say.

“A massive part of this has to go down to the support and help my coach Noel Fox gives me daily. I lean on that guy so much, and he gives me all his knowledge, which is never-ending and abundant.

“He’s also won the Irish Amateur twice, so I am delighted to be in his company there. I wouldn’t be performing like I am without his help the last couple of years, so it is a massive credit to him.”

Final scores from the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, The European Club (Par 71)

217 P O’Keeffe (Douglas) 73 72 72, N Gerhardsen (Breitenloo) 72 72 73; O’Keeffe won after a 3-hole aggregate playoff over the 18th, 10th and 9th holes (4-4-4 to 5-4-4)

220 H Foley (Royal Dublin) 76 75 69;

222 H Smith (The Rayleigh Club) 74 74 74;

223 A Hill (Athenry) 69 75 79;

224 S Goldenring (MGA) 75 73 76, A Edwards-Hill (Chelmsford) 74 76 74, K Egan (Carton House) 73 77 74, E Dimayuga (Walton Heath) 72 80 72, E Papineau (Canada) 72 77 75;

225 B McDougall (Canada) 72 75 78;

226 T Matthews (Aldersey Green) 74 78 74, J Claridge (Enville) 72 79 75, C Gugler (GCC Zurich) 70 78 78;

227 S Walker (Roscommon) 78 75 74, K Popert (Wildernesse) 76 72 79;

228 E Murphy (Dundalk) 74 80 74;

229 J Fox (Portmarnock) 79 73 77, C Graham (Blairgowrie) 75 77 77, M McClean (Malone) 72 84 73;

231 L Nolan (Galway) 78 79 74, S Cave (The Belfry) 77 82 72, R Cheetham (Pedham Place Golf Centre) 74 81 76, J Lyons (Galway) 72 80 79, T Higgins (Roscommon) 71 83 77;

232 M Boucher (Carton House) 78 76 78, J McDonnell (Forrest Little) 75 84 73, R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 73 79 80, R Lindsay (Turnberry) 70 79 83;

233 G Dunne (Co. Louth) 74 83 76;

234 P Keeling (Roganstown) 83 76 75, S Ryan (Royal Dublin) 79 80 75, D Kitt (Athenry) 79 77 78, S Flanagan (Portmarnock) 78 79 77, G Ward (Kinsale) 77 76 81;

235 J Hill (Galgorm Castle) 78 80 77, J Murphy (Douglas) 78 79 78, S McLoughlin (Co. Sligo) 75 84 76, A Marshall (Lisburn) 74 85 76, A Ryan (Thurles) 74 85 76;

236 P Ulmrich (GC Mannheim-Viernheim 1930 e.V. ) 78 75 83, P Coughlan (Castleknock) 74 80 82;

237 J Hewitt (Tandragee) 85 70 82, D Shiel (Powerscourt) 74 79 84;

238 G Holland (Southport & Ainsdale) 75 84 79;

240 S Siltala (Kankaisten Golf) 78 81 81;

243 T Lecomte (Evian Resort) 75 78 90;

NR 152 C Harkin (Letterkenny) 70 82;

NR 156 G Cullen (The Links Portmarnock) 75 81; RTD 159 T Randolph (MGA) 81 78.

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