Brian Keogh in Rosses Point
Good things come to those who wait. And so it proved for Joe Lyons, the quiet spoken 34-year-old from Banagher in Co Offaly, as he putted his way to a one hole victory over Portstewart’s Paul Cutler in the final of the Radisson-SAS West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point.
On previous occasions, the putts have slipped past the lip for Lyons, who helped Galway capture the Irish Senior Cup title at Enniscrone last September.
But this time the glory was his alone as he rounded off a sensational putting performance on the back nine with a sweet six-foot birdie putt for his first individual championship victory in front of a huge crowd that included former Ireland manager Jack Charlton.
It was a case of tasting your own medicine for 18-year-old Irish Boys international Cutler, who had torn the heart out of the massive home support in the morning when he holed serious yardage on the greens, not to mention a 25 yard pitch at the 17th, to deny Strandhill’s Tommy McGowan a date with destiny in the final.
The 17-year-old Summerhill College student played superbly to go four up at the turn before Cutler wielded his putter like an assassin’s blade, holing from 20 feet at the 13th, 40 feet at the 14th and 30 feet at the 15th to level the match with birdies before holing out with a wedge another birdie at the 17th to go one up.
McGowan bravely drained a 15 footer for birdie at the last and watched as Cutler’s 10 footer for the win bobbled past the right lip to give him a five under par back nine of 30 blows.
But it all ended on the 20th for the local hero when he thinned his pitch through the back of the green and left himself an impossible recovery to the back left pin position.
After that performance, Lyons was well aware of the threat he faced from Cutler in the final, and he played the first five holes in three under par to go two up before throwing away his lead with bogey-double bogey run at the sixth and seventh.
“I had a bit of a chat with myself after that and said, don't give away holes,” said Lyons, who holed a 30 footer for birdie at the ninth to turn one up. “But then I gave away the 13th with a three-putt and that woke me up.”
Back to all square again, Lyons looked in trouble when Cutler rammed home a trademark 45 footer for birdie at the 14th. But the former Birr player matched him from 12 feet and then did it again, but for pars, from 25 feet at the 15th and 12 feet at the 16th.
The pair shared the 17th in bogey, with Lyons 12 footer up the hill stopping in the jaws before Cutler’s testing five footer down the hill missed on the low side.
But Lyons made no mistake at the last, calmly stroking home a straight six footer for birdie after Cutler had raced his 20-foot birdie chance a good six feet past the hole.
Hugged by his wife Vera, who helped read the lines and pulled the bag, Lyons recalled the first day of strokeplay qualifying afterwards, when he stood four over par after just two holes and failed to birdie the easy par-five third.
"I started 6-6-5 in the qualifying last Friday and I was walking to the fourth tee on four over par thinking, 'What am I doing here?' To shoot 72 after that was the best achievement of the week,” he said.
A second 72 qualified him with ease and he was under par in all six of his matches - including seven under for 12 holes in the quarter-finals - before defeating the leading qualifier Simon Ward with a 40 foot par putt in a 2 and 1 semi-final victory.
“Funnily enough, I felt I was going to hole every one of those putts on the way in this afternoon. Even though I missed one on 17 I thought I was going to hole that too,” Lyons said.
“Winning Senior Cup last year was brilliant and I put this on a par with that. It is nice to win something individual, that's special I have to say.
“I have won a good few scratch cups and competed very well in Championships but not made it to the last day. I was in with a shout with nine or ten holes to go in the Irish Amateur Open last year. If I had putted like I putted today, I could have won it but I finished 10th with 37 putts.”
J Lyons (Galway) bt S Ward (Co Louth) 2/1;
P Cutler (Portstewart) bt t McGowan (Co Sligo) 20th.
Final: J Lyons bt P Cutler 1 hole.