Yates wraps up West under bare Ben Bulben’s head

UCD student secures another title for Naas after victory over Daniel Holland

Rosses Point Golf Club in Sligo. Photograph:  David Cannon/Getty Images

Rosses Point Golf Club in Sligo. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

 

Power without control means nothing but Naas’ Jonathan Yates combined the strength of a prize-fighter with the nerveless touch of a surgeon to capture the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at County Sligo on Tuesday.

The pristine links was at its beautiful best with Ben Bulben, black and menacing one minute, swathed in wispy cloud the next, giving a hard-fought final a classic context as the 22-year-old UCD student beat Castle’s Daniel Holland 2&1 in a bloody contest, playing the 17 holes in one-over-par to the Dubliner’s five-over.

“Dan was always going to be tough,” said Yates, who took a huge step towards the title and an Irish cap when he came back from two down after nine holes to beat the holder Dermot McElroy one up in the semi-finals.

“He is so gritty and hits it so straight and he is such a good putter that he is not going to give you anything.”

Holland, 26, had also caused a semi-final upset by beating an out-of-sorts Colm Campbell 5&4.

But he was outmatched from tee to green in the final and had it not been for a win against the head at the eighth and brave saves at the ninth and 10th, he might have fallen earlier.

With Jack Hume winning the title two years ago and Conor O’Rourke improving, Naas golf is now flying with the help of club professional Gavin Lunny.

“Since Jack won here, things have really switched on in the club,” Yates explained. “He has taught us how to win and I had a great chat with him last night. He told me just to turn my phone off and forget everything and go and play.”

Yates didn’t quite follow Hume’s advice to the letter, confessing he made the mistake of checking the odds on Paddy Power, who had McElroy as odds-on favourite for their match and the title.

“I knew this morning would be tough against Dermot, the guy in form,” he said. “But I knew if I could get past Dermot, I had a really good chance to win.”

Two down after nine to McElroy in the morning, Yates holed long birdie putts at the 10th and 12th to level the match, then forged ahead when the Ballymena man missed short putts at the 14th and 16th to fall behind.

While a win in par at the 17th earned him a stay of execution, the Naas man won one-up and then slowly dismantled Holland with strong tee to green play coupled with steady putting in the final.

Holland birdied the first from three feet to draw first blood but three-putted the fourth and then threw away the fifth and sixth with further bogeys to go from one up to one down.

Another bogey to Yates’s birdie at the seventh,where he overshot the green, left him two down until Yates missed a shot par putt at the eighth to fall back to just one up.

When he lipped out for birdie at the ninth and Holland got up and down from sand to halve there, and then halved the 10th, it was anyone’s game.

But Yates birdied the long 12th from nine feet to go two-up again, then cleaned up nervelessly for halves in pars at the 13th and 14th and again at the 15th, where Holland left a golden chance from around 12 feet well short.

A bogey in the midst of a rain squall at the par-three 16th gave Holland a win and a chink of light but Yates slammed the door shut at the fearsome 17th with a stellar three-iron finding the fringe pin-high and setting up a winning par.

“That was a seriously good shot under pressure,” said Holland, who missed the green right and failed to save par from 15 feet. “I just got tight early, steered a few shots and I paid for it.

“Jonny is a good player, he’s been working hard and I know this means an awful lot to him and that he wants a spot on that Irish team. He deserves it now. I will have to try again.”

Yates always believed his ball-striking would prove the difference and he’s hoping now to win his first Irish cap.

“The Irish captain Tony Goode told me I was close to the Senior panel and said I needed a good result this week to have a chance,” he said.

Mission accomplished.

West of Ireland Amateur Open, Co Sligo – Semi-finals: D Holland (Castle) bt C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 5/4; J Yates (Naas) bt D McElroy (Ballymena) 1 up. Final: Yates bt Holland 2/1.

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