Castletroy’s Andrew McCormack held off a final day, two-eagle charge from Galway’s Joe Lyons to win the 2016 Mid-West Alliance series by three points at Dromoland Castle.
Now the 24 year old, as well as Lyons, Dromoland’s Jason O’Leary and fourth ranked Aaron Moore from Adare Manor are hoping that the winter practice in the series will stand to them in the West of Ireland Championship at Co Sligo later this month.
“Coming up to Rosses Point the Mid West Alliance is a great start to the season — card in your pocket against some good players,” Newcastlewest native McCormack said.
“I qualified in the West and the South last year,” added McCormack, who had 35 points for a four-event tally of 109.
“But I lost to Jonathan Yates in the first round at Rosses Point and never really got going at Lahinch, despite qualifying well. So having gone in to the championships not knowing what I had to do, I came way and realised I needed to hit more solid iron shots and hole more putts to compete.
“I still have a good bit of work to do with my coach Michael Collins in Cork, but he has transformed my swing.”
Winner of last year’s East of Ireland Foursomes with club-mate and Ireland international Chloe Ryan, plus two handicapper McCormack showed his talent when he closed with a one over 73 in cool, blustery conditions, amassing 35 points gross and playing the last few holes sensibly as Lyons tried to make up lost ground with an attacking display that was derailed by a handful of poor bunker shots earlier in the day.
McCormack led by one point from O’Leary starting the day with Lyons three behind and Moore five back.
But it was O’Leary who kept pace with the eventual champion early on before McCormack brilliantly birdied the eighth from seven feet and then got up and down from short of the lake for birdie at the ninth to turn in one under par — four ahead of O’Leary and six better than Lyons overall.
That left him four ahead of O’Leary and five ahead of Lyons, who drove the ninth green and holed a 10 footer for an eagle two — his second of the day following a three at the fourth that he handed back at the next two holes.
After dumping a 90-yard wedge shot in the front trap en route to a six at the sixth, he blanked the seventh after a three putt from no more than 10 feet.
Moore’s hopes of closing the gap in the leader were undone by four opening bogeys but while he was 11 points behind at the turn, he made fine birdies at the 11th and 12th and hit some impressive irons over the closing holes on what was an otherwise off key day for the 23-year old music teacher.
While O’Leary and Lyons birdied the 10th to close the gap with McCormack to three and five points respectively, the next five holes proved crucial.
Three pars and a bogey saw him extend his lead by one to four points from Lyons, who pulled off a great up and down from behind the 14th for par.
However, the driveable, 273-yard 15th proved to be the turning point in the match.
As Lyons and O’Leary found the green with superb fairway woods, McCormack lost his tee shot right, left his second short and knocked his third 15 feet past the hole.
But neither Lyons nor O’Leary could convert for eagle and McCormack drilled home his par putt to take a three-shot lead into the last three holes.
“I holed a nice one there for par there,” McCormack said of his par saver at the 15th. “It gave me a bit of a boost and I made a good up and down on the 16th for a par four and when I hit the four-iron in to the 17th, that was the shot I needed at the right time.”
All four players made regulation pars at the 16th but while all hit the par-three 17th with raking iron shots, Lyons lipped out for birdie and knew his chance had gone as they headed into the wind at the par-five 18th.
As Lyons took driver and was unfortunate to kick left behind a tree, McCormack hit an iron for safety, laid up and could even afford to take six and still maintain his three shot advantage.
“The Mid-West Alliance is the only thing we have on this side of the country over the winter and it’s great that Seamus McEnery and the lads put something on for us,” said 43-year old Lyons, a former West of Ireland champion.
“The winter has has been very severe but Dromoland Castle has been good, risk-reward course for us. It’s just a pity we got off to such a bad start.
“I was happy enough how I played after that but I’ll be back. I haven’t won this yet and I’ve been second a few times now.”
This year’s Mid-West Alliance began with 62 players in two categories — scratch to three and 4-9, and it has worked well for the area with the South of Ireland Championship introducing a 36—hole strokeplay qualifier last year.
Whether a 54-hole qualifier for the top 16 is the next step — a model followed in Australia — remains to be seen but there are certainly some useful young players emerging via the Mid-West Alliance and that can only be a good thing.
Category 0-3 handicap
- Andrew McCormack (Castletroy) 35 pts and 109 pts overall
- Joe Lyons (Galway) 35 and 106
- Jason O’Leary (Dromoland Castle) 31 and 104
- Aaron Moore (Adare Manor) 25 and 94
- Overall winner: Alan Neville (Dromoland Castle) 93 pts
- Killian Howard (Dromoland) 89 pts
- Damien O'Brien (Adare) 88 pts
- Donncadh Nagle (Kilrush) 88 pts
- Ryan Foley (Dromoland) 84 pts
Premier Irish golf Tours sponsored "Nearest to the pin"
- 3rd Hole Andrew McCormack
- 7th hole Ryan Foley
- 13th hole Andrew McCormack
- 17th Donncadh Nagle
Each won 12 ProV1s