Co Sligo's Sean Flanagan produced a nerveless putting display to capture the Cathedral Eye sponsored North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.
The 20 year old holed a succession of devastating putts from 12, 15 and eight feet at the 14th, 15th and 16th before closing out his first major title and almost certainly clinching his place in the Irish team with a 3 and 1 win over Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon.
Chasing his first major crown, Flanagan had built a considerable lead by the 10th after winning three holes on the trot.
McLarnon poured on the pressure but Flanagan never flinched, admitted later that his putter had won the day.
“If I missed those three putts, I was one down playing 17. It would have been a different story then,” he said.
“If I play well, I’d like to think I’m confident with the putter. The putter is definitely the reason that I won this week. It saved me."
All square after seven, Flanagan won the eighth with par and took the next in par as well.
“When I saw it was wet and breezy, it didn’t faze me,” said Flanagan. “I knew I didn’t have to play flashy golf and it settles you when you know you don’t have to play flashy golf.”G
Playing in the worst of the weather during his morning semi-final against Jordan Hood, Flanagan plotted his way to an impressive 4 and 3 victory. As the rain abated in the afternoon, pars were not always going to be enough.
McLarnon had taken out Ballymena international Dermot McElroy 3 and 2 in the semis, and he made birdie at the second to take an early lead in the final.
Flanagan responded immediately, holing from 25 feet for a two at the third. It was a sight that would become all too familiar to McLarnon, one that he would lament.
The Massereene man put it simply: “He putted better than me.”
Had things gone his way on the back nine, McLarnon might well have been leading coming down 17. When his tee shot went right into the Big Nellie bunker, the end was nigh for the Irish Close Champion.
“It was a tough day but I will come back again,” vowed McLarnon.
The winner meanwhile was celebrating on the double as he became the first Co Sligo player to succeed at a championship since the great Cecil Ewing
“Massive, massive,” said Flanagan, describing his victory. “It’s a big stepping stone for me and hopefully Home Internationals will be the next thing on my schedule.”
North of Ireland Amateur Open, Royal Portrush
- Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Masserreene) 3/1
- Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) bt Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) 3/2
- Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) beat Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) 4/3