From Brian Keogh in Lahinch
Darren Crowe knew exactly how Open champion Padraig Harrington must have felt as he turned potential disaster into a glorious one-hole victory in the McNamara sponsored South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.
Desperate to avoid losing in the final for the third year on the trot, the flame-haired Dunmurry man looked like he was falling apart as Galway’s Joe Lyons came back from three down with five to play to square the match on the 17th.
But in the end it was 26-year-old Crowe who took the spoils with a conceded birdie four at the par-five 18th, where Lyons took two to extricate himself from greenside sand en route to a fatal bogey six.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Crowe confessed: "I got lucky in the end to be perfectly honest. I wouldn't have like to have lost this one. As Harrington said at the Open, I don't know if I would have come back.
"I was pretty nervous about it before I went out. Being the third final, I didn't want to have the label of losing three finals in a row.
"But now that I have won, I have to say that it means even more to me than winning the North last year."
In the rain-lashed, morning semi-finals, Crowe was unstoppable as he defeated Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney 3&2, going five up after seven at one stage, while Lyons beat Castletroy's Stephen Moloney 2&1.
But while the sun-splashed final produced just four birdies, it was a nerve-jangling classic right to the end as 35-year-old Offaly native Lyons birdied the first but lost the fourth and eighth to birdies and the sixth and seventh to pars to turn for home three down.
While Crowe conceded short 11th after taking three to reach the green, Lyons looked out for the count when he three-putted the 12th from long range to go three down again and then missed a five footer for a winning birdie at the 13th.
But nervous bogeys by Crowe at the 14th, 15th and 17th left them all square playing the par-five 18th in front of a huge gallery. While Crowe overshot the green by a few yards with his three-iron approach, Lyons bunkered his five-iron, took two to get out and left himself a 20 footer for par.
After Crowe chipped to three and a half feet, Lyons failed to save par and conceded the match. Not only had he lost, he also had little more than 12 hours to get ready for his 7.40am tee time in today’s Challenge of Ireland event at Glasson near Athlone.
McNamara&Co South of Ireland Championship, Lahinch
Semifinals; D Crowe (Dunmurry) bt N Kearney (Royal Dublin) 3/2;
J Lyons (Galway) bt S Moloney (Castletroy) 2/1.
Final: D Crowe bt J Lyons 1 hole.