Sligo-born Barry Anderson claims West of Ireland title glory
‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d win this week,’ says delighted winner
Barry Anderson beat Jack Pierse to win the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Rosses Point.
Royal Dublin’s Barry Anderson produced a relentless performance from start to finish to beat Jack Pierse 3 and 2 and become the first Sligo-born winner of the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship since Cecil Ewing 67 years ago.
Co Sligo’s stunning links was at its most benign on the final day with a zephyr breeze and bright sunshine bringing out the locals in their hundreds for a final that saw 26-year-old Anderson take a vice-like grip early on that he never relinquished.
“I am shell-shocked,” Anderson said after closing out the match on the 16th green. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d win this week.
“I thought other years when I was playing a lot more golf, I had a better chance. I was only teeing it up because I thought I would miss it if I didn’t. I had zero expectations and now I have surpassed my wildest dreams.”
Having come from three down after four holes to beat Newlands’ Jake Whelan 5 and 3 in the morning, Anderson started par-birdie-par-par, found himself three up after four and vowed to give nothing away cheaply.
“That start settled the nerves and gave me the cushion where I didn’t have to attack the course,” he said.
“It was important to keep that distance between us and keep it on the straight and narrow. That was my game plan. I just played steady all day. I just wore him down.”
Once ahead, Anderson never took his foot off his opponent’s neck and it was telling that Pierse’s only win of the afternoon came at the 10th, where Anderson squirted his second well right and failed to get up and down.
Pierse, ever smiling and sportsmanlike, was superb in the morning, cruising to a 3 and 2 win over 20-year old dairy farmer William Small from Tandragee.
But the 26-year old accountant’s slow start in the final, where he took three from the edge of the first, failed to birdie the second and then took three from the front edge of the third and watched Anderson steal a half in par fives from 15 feet, proved to be a millstone.
“I thought if I could stick at it and stick at it and get him to 17, I’d be right there, but he didn’t let me back in,” Pierse said. “I needed to make a couple of putts to get back at him and they kept going by the edge.”
Three down after eight, one of the keys came at the par-three ninth where Anderson bunkered his tee shot and Pierse followed him into the same trap.
Both bogeyed and while Pierse got back to two down after 10, Anderson holed a 35-footer down a tier for an unlikely birdie at the 12th, forcing his rival to hole from 18ft just to remain two down.
“I was trying to get him running out of holes,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want to hand him a hole and the next thing I am only one up. It was important to keep that distance between us . . .”
While he was just two under par for the 16 holes played, Anderson’s birdie at the 457-yard 15th summed up his day.
Pierse blasted a driver to within 70 yards of the green, but Anderson stuck to his game plan and hit a rescue into position, then fired a 153-yard nine-iron to six feet and sank the putt to go three up with three to play.
“I’ve dreamed of playing in this championship since I was 12 years old,” Anderson said after lagging dead at the 16th to seal his dream win.
“This is the championship that got me involved in golf – coming down at Easter to watch the great players over the years. I wanted to play in it and then I wanted to go on and win it. It’s absolutely unbelievable to win it now.”
Semi-finals: Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt William Small (Tandragee) 3/2; Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt Jake Whelan (Newlands) 5/3.
Final: Anderson bt Pierse 3/2.