Tullamore's Stuart Grehan confessed that hearing an inspirational speech from Paul McGinley on the importance of winning at home motivated him to enter the Mullingar Scratch Trophy at the last minute and romp to an impressive four-shot victory.
The 24-year old Walker Cup hopeful was one of 23 former South of Ireland champions who remained on at Lahinch last week for a special past champions day to mark the club's 125th anniversary.
But it was only after hearing an after-dinner speech by 1991 South of Ireland and Mullingar Scratch Trophy winner McGinley, underlining the importance for a prospective tour professional of winning the big Irish events, that he decided to enter.
Saddened that Ireland’s iconic events were losing their lustre before a stellar field assembled at Lahinch, McGinley said: “It’s not about finishing seventh in the Brabazon or the Lytham and getting your world ranking points up. It’s about winning.
“It’s about winning in Carlow or Mullingar. It’s about being Irish champion or South of Ireland champion or East of Ireland champion.”
Leading the Sherry FitzGerald Davitt & Davitt-sponsored event by seven shots overnight after a pair of 67s, Grehan carded a four under 68 in Monday morning's third round to maintain a seven-shot advantage, then closed with a 71 to win by four shots from Tramore's Robin Dawson on 15-under par 283.
“It’s brilliant,” Grehan said. “I’m really happy. I was very nervous starting the day, thinking, ‘Just don’t blow it.’
“But I had a great 68 in the morning and after that I was cruising for the rest of the day, so I am delighted to win.”
Grehan was a late addition to the field and admitted that he only changed his mind after hearing McGinley’s passionate after-dinner speech in Lahinch.
He also realised after encouragement from the past champions around the table in Lahinch that the 72-hole strokeplay test in Mullingar would be perfect preparation for next week’s US Amateur Championship in Los Angeles.
Walker Cup place
“That’s one of the main reasons I played here,” Grehan said of the prospect of top-class parkland golf before his trip to Riviera Country Club, where he may need a big week to secure his Walker Cup place.
“But Paul McGinley’s speech really got me going. I’m delighted I played.”
Despite finishing double bogey, bogey, Grehan's 15-under par total was just two strokes short of the record, 17-under 271 aggregate carded by Shane Lowry en route to victory at a revamped Mullingar in 2008.
“There are some great names on the trophy so it’s fantastic to see my name there beside the likes of Rory McIlroy and Shane,” Grehan said. “I’m in good company.”