For the second day running Alan Thomas birdied the 19th hole to win his match – only this time he was putting to secure the AIG Senior Cup title for Tramore, writes the GUI.
“This is by far the happiest time I've ever had on a golf course and I've probably never shook so much on a golf course in my life the last two days,” said Thomas after surviving a cliffhanger against Co Sligo's Steffan O'Hara in the decisive match. All square playing the last, Thomas decided to call it a half when both players faced tricky par putts.
“I missed a putt in 2011 on the 18th from about eight feet to go down 19 against Warrenpoint in the Barton Shield final and it's not nice when you miss a putt and the crowd cheers so I said to Steff, let's pick them up and keep going.
"I didn't want to miss and have the crowd going mad and I didn't want that for him either, it's not a nice feeling. It's better the way it was won. It was won better.
"I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with what I did on 18. I'm a sportsman. This game isn't life. I'm glad I did it now obviously,” said Thomas, who surprised onlookers with that decision.
O'Hara had birdied 17 to make it all square having put a ball in the water on the par-5 15th to fall one behind. The 16th was halved in double bogeys when both players dumped their tee shots in the river but O'Hara showed remarkable composure to come back and birdie 17 after Thomas had narrowly missed a putt to go two clear on the previous green.
It seemed like Sligo, the holders, had the momentum at that stage especially with Mark Morrissey coming good in the final match for the reigning champions but that dramatic half on 18 saw the title decided on 19.
“It was a good birdie because I was in trouble off the tee,” said Thomas describing his four on the first extra hole. The previous day he made a birdie to beat Rosslare's Paul Murphy and secure the decisive point for Tramore in a tense semi-final.
Once more Thomas delivered under immense pressure but only after his tee shot found the rough and his second caught a bunker short of the green. Left with 67 yards to the pin, Thomas made it look easy out of the sand, firing his approach inside 18 feet.
“There was a piece of grass there and I said to Jason (O'Reilly, his caddie), if I keep this right of that, dead weight, it has to go in because the break was at the end. Six inches short of the hole I knew it was in. I think the putter hit the ground before the ball went in,” said Thomas describing the moment Tramore finally clinched the title.
The Munster men got off to a great start when Chris Butler comfortably beat David Brady 5&4 and Irish international Robin Dawson put Tramore's second point on the board with a birdie on 17 to secure a 2&1 win against Sean Flanagan.
Declan Reidy beat former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn on 17 in game two to get Sligo off the mark while Mark Morrissey kept a late charging David Kiely at bay in the anchor leg.
And so all eyes turned to 37-year-old Thomas who produced the biggest birdie of his career to seal the AIG Senior Cup crown for Tramore for the second time since 1992.
AIG Senior Cup Final, Carton House, O'Meara Course
Tramore 3, Co Sligo 2 (Tramore names first)
- Robin Dawson bt Sean Flanagan 2/1;
- Paul Flynn lost to Declan Reidy 2/1;
- Chris Butler bt David Brady 5/4;
- Alan Thomas bt Steffan O’Hara 19th;
- David Kiely lost to Mark Morrissey 2 holes.