From Brian Keogh at Rosses Point
A stroke of pure genius helped Esker Hills’ Shane Lowry balance the books with the golfing gods at Rosses Point and add the West of Ireland Championship title to a family mantelpiece heaving with achievement.
Two years ago, the 20-year-old from Clara in Co Offaly left Sligo with tears in his eyes when he was disqualified for inadvertently signing for an incorrect score when he looked certain to take the silver medal as the leading qualifier on his senior championship debut.
This time round there were tears of joy as Lowry fell into an emotional family embrace with his mother Bridget and father Brendan following his enthralling 2 and 1 victory over the heroic but ultimately ill-fated Mullingar man Dessie Morgan.
The shot that helped Lowry add to his 2007 Irish Close championship win was not his par-saving pitch to three feet at the 17th but a delicate lob wedge from a seemingly impossible position in the rough to the right of the 14th green.
Three up after playing the first 11 holes in one-under par, Lowry duffed a pitch and three-putted the 12th to open the door before three-putting again to lose the par-three 13th after Morgan had heaped on the pressure with a glorious wedge to just five feet.
With his lead cut to just one hole with five to play, a pushed nine-iron at the 14th could have had fatal consequences. But despite having no green to work with, Lowry applied the touch of a surgeon to chip the ball no more than a few feet from a heavy lie and let the ball run down the slope to with three feet of the flag.
“I was cruising at three up after 11 and then I don’t know what happened,” Lowry said afterwards. “I got a bit complacent on 12 and bad pace-putting in the middle of the round cost me. But I think the up-and-down on the 14th won it for me.
“I’d say if I was out there for the rest of the day I wouldn’t get up and down. I was going to try and fly it on, but said to myself, pick a spot, hit there and hope for the best. It ran out to two and half feet.
“It was important for me to win. I was beaten in the final of the North last year and if I got beaten again today, you’d start to doubt yourself. But I had a talk with myself on the 15th tee and played solid from there on in."
A winning par at the 16th, where Morgan flew long and left, gave him a two-hole cushion again and he closed out the match with another touch of class at the 17th.
Blocked out by the hill on the left, he laid up with a wedge and then fired his third to just three feet. Morgan hit the hole with his chip from right of the green and bravely canned a 10 footer for par, forcing Lowry to hole out for victory.
Lowry’s father Brendan has long held the bragging rights at home following his achievements in an Offaly football jersey and that legendary 1982 All-Ireland victory over a Kerry team seeking five-in-a-row.
“I think I’m after passing him out!” said Shane with a grin. “It’s great to get another one of these under my belt.”
Dad Brendan could bear to watch the action, explaining: “I couldn’t handle it. But it’s fantastic. Better than any All-Ireland.”
Lowry was in superb form all week, coming through at the 20th to beat Ryan Boal in the quarter-finals before crushing Galway’s Eddie McCormack 5 and 4 in yesterday’s semis.
He now heads to Spain on Sunday to represent Ireland in the Grey Goose Cup in Jerez but his big ambition is to make next year’s Walker Cup side to take on the United States at Merion in Pennsylvania.
Morgan beat Paul O’Hanlon 3 and 2 in the semi-finals but paid tribute to Lowry afterwards, adding “Fair play to him. He is a great player - Ireland’s new Rory McIlroy.”
Radisson SAS West of Ireland Amateur Championship, Co Sligo GC Semi-finals: S Lowry (Esker Hills) bt E McCormack (Galway) 5/4; D Morgan (Mullingar) bt P O’Hanlon (The Curragh) 3/2. Final: S Lowry bt D Morgan 2/1.