Cecil Ewing and Sean McTernan came up short but Co Sligo's TJ Ford was not to be denied as he became the first man from the Rosses Point club to win the South of Ireland Championship, producing a brilliant display of golf to win the 119th edition at sun-baked Lahinch.
The 24-year-old, who works in golf marketing, rolled in his seventh birdie of the day on the 14th green to beat Dún Laoghaire's Alan Fahy 5 and 4 and captured the Pierse Motors Volkswagen-sponsored championship in impressive fashion.
"I can't believe it," said the big Sligo man, who had to dig deep to beat Royal Dublin's Richard Knightly at the 20th in the quarter-finals, but he was a deserved winner as he followed a 2 and 1 win over Fortwilliam's Hugh O'Hare in the morning semi-finals with a virtuoso performance in the decider.
“I’m in shock, to be honest. It was such an amazing week with the weather, and everyone was so friendly. It’s unbelievable.
“I dreamt of winning from the very first hole so I had to quench those thoughts. Being from Rosses Point, the West was the championship that I always had putt to win on practice putting green, but this is as good as it gets.”
Fahy beat Enniscorthy's Paul Conroy 3 and 2 in his semi-final, but his long game deteriorated in the final and, having not hit a fairway on the front nine, he had to make a six-footer for a half in birdie at the ninth and a 25-footer for par at the 10th just to remain three down.
Ford three-putted the first to fall behind but won the second and fourth in birdies and the sixth with a conceded par to go two-up before rolling in a seven-footer at the eighth to extend his lead to three holes.
Fahy had a chance to win the 11th with a par, but three-putted from the back fringe and then lost the 12th when he drove into the Mine, and Ford hit six-iron from 230 yards to the front edge and two-putted for birdie to go four up.
Both men drove the 13th but Fahy’s 25-foot eagle putt lipped out and after they halved that in birdie, Ford closed out the match with a birdie at the 14th, rifling a 190-yard eight-iron to 10 feet before rolling in the putt.
“The first couple of drives are absolute wings and that just knocked my whole long game off and I lost a bit of confidence,” Fahy said. “I was putting well but I couldn’t hit a fairway at the right time. He won a few key holes that killed me off.”
Ford has no intentions of turning professional and, with one championship under his belt, he’s dreaming of another.
“I’ve spent enough time with the lads who are playing on the mini-tours at the moment and I know how good they are, so I will keep going in the amateur game as long as I can,” he said of the professional game.
As for that dream of winning the West, he added: “Getting the first one is the hardest but I know now that it can be reality. Hopefully now I’ll press on and see what happens.”
South of Ireland Amateur Open, sponsored by Pierse Motors Volkswagen, Lahinch
Semi-finals: TJ Ford (Co Sligo) bt Hugh O'Hare (Fortwilliam) 2&1; Alan Fahy (Dún Laoghaire) bt Paul Conroy (Enniscorthy) 3&2
Final: Ford bt Fahy 5&4