Cian Curley took his first major step on the road to success in the paid ranks when he chiseled out a “professional” level par 72 in the final round to win the East of Ireland Amateur Open by two strokes at windy Baltray.

The 24-year old Dubliner became the first Newlands man to capture a major amateur title since tour star Peter Lawrie won the Close in 1996 and he hopes it will stand to him when he tries to join pal Shane Lowry on the European Tour later this year.

“It’s a great feeling to get my first big one,” said Curley, who edged out Co Sligo’s Gary McDermott (70) with a four round aggregate of seven under par 281. “It’s a nice relief I suppose because I’ve had a few chances but not quite finished them off but you have to be up there a few times first. 

“Hopefully I can come through the Q-School and get on tour with Shane. It’s great he did so well today to qualify for the Open. I’m sure I’ll be meeting him for a pint later.”

An established senior international, Curley was determined to get over the line yesterday having endured his share of disappointments in recent years, most notably last season.

He was beaten 5 and 4 by Limerick’s Pat Murray in the Irish Close final at Enniscrone - a painful defeat made even more painful by the fact that he played a wrong ball on the 13th when he was two down at the time.

He said: “I was very disappointed last year, the Close and especially the way it happened as well,  when I played the wrong ball. I was pretty down about that but I definitely learned from it.

“To be honest, I’m really happy to win a stroke play event. I almost would have preferred to win a stroke play than a match play, though you’d take any win.

“Turning pro, winning a stroke play event is what you want to do so I suppose odds-on I probably would have been favourite to win a match play before a stroke play going by past results.

“If I could have picked a tournament to win it would have been this one. It’s my favourite course in the country. I got my first Irish cap here and my first Senior Leinster cap. I’ve played the course a lot and know it so well at this stage, I almost felt at home.”

Four strokes clear of Galway’s Eddie McCormack and Mullingar’s Dessie Morgan after 36 holes, he could have blown his title chances in the third round but felt happy to card a one-over par 73 that could have been “76 or 77” had it not been for some short game magic.

His morning effort left him two strokes adrift of Galway-based Cavan man McCormack, who fired a superb, five under par 67 to lead on nine-under par with Morgan three shots off the pace after a 70 and defending champion Paul Cutler a shot further back after a 69.

“I knew with two rounds to go, a four shot lead didn’t mean much, especially if it was going to be windy and rainy today,” Curley said. “I actually played really well this morning. I just didn’t give myself any birdie chances but I felt great after my round.

“If someone had said I’d be two behind going into the last round, I’d have taken it. Then, when the wind got up, I knew two shots was nothing, they could be gone after the first. I just kept plugging away.”

Sligo man McDermott has had his share of glory days in the “West” but for a while it looked as though he would capture his first big title when he eagled the sixth to get into the mix.

He was still there with nine holes to go but ended up with a 70 to finish two behind Curley, who was just too consistent on the back nine.

After a bogey at the ninth, the Dubliner took his first major step towards capturing the title when he hit a 60 yard pitch to just two and a half feet at the short, par-four 14th and holed the putt to go two ahead.

Curley explained: “I made a really good up and down for par from 10 feet on the 15th that turned out to be quite important.”

Two clear playing the last, Curley needed only a bogey six to beat McDermott’s five under par total but added some drama to the finish when he found a downhill lie in a bunker with his approach but extracted it safely and two putted from 15 feet for victory.

For a man who was desperate about the state of his game two weeks ago, Curley was back in love with golf again.

He said: “I wasn’t ready to pack it in but I was really getting fed up with the game. I wasn’t enjoying it. I met with my coach Neil Manchip last week and we spent three hours, had a lesson and a good chat and he really kind of turned my head around there and got me enjoying the game there again.

“My next outing is the British Amateur at Muirfield next week and I am feeling good about my chances going there because we won the Home Internationals around there a few years ago.”

East of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, Co Louth (Par 72)
281 C Curley (Newlands) 68 68 73 72
283 G McDermot (Co. Sligo) 72 71 70 70
285 P Cutler (Portstewart) 68 74 69 74, D Morgan (Mullingar) 67 73 70 75
286 E McCormack (Galway) 68 72 67 79
288 P Dunne (Greystones) 71 72 73 72
289 P Murray (Limerick) 71 73 70 75
290 L Lennox (Moyola Park) 76 71 67 76, G Bohill (Co. Louth) 75 72 69 74, P Purdy (Shandon Park) 72 74 70 74, D Lernihan (Castle) 72 70 74 74
291 T O’Flynn (Fota Island) 76 69 71 75, E Maguire (Seapoint) 75 68 72 76, D Downie (Sutton) 73 72 74 72, R O’Donovan (Lucan) 73 70 75 73, A Kearney (Castlerock) 73 69 78 71
292 J Hume (Rathsallagh) 78 70 70 74, H Diamond (Belvoir Park) 74 69 74 75, R Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown) 71 76 71 74, R McCarthy (The Island) 71 76 68 77, G McGee (Malone) 71 75 74 72, S Devey (Skerries) 70 75 71 76, D Crowe (Dunmurry) 69 75 73 75
293 S Crowe (Dunmurry) 76 70 73 74, D Coghlan (The Royal Dublin) 74 73 74 72, J Monaghan (The Island) 74 73 67 79, E Arthurs (Forrest Little) 72 74 72 75, R McNamara (Headfort) 71 72 74 76, J Fox (Portmarnock) 70 73 74 76
294 J Lyons (Galway) 74 72 69 79, R Newman (Brookman’s Park) 74 69 74 77
295 C Martin (Kilkenny) 70 75 74 76
296 G McGrane (The Royal Dublin) 75 72 77 72, L Harnett (Milltown) 72 73 77 74, D McElroy (Ballymena) 70 75 75 76, S Walsh (Baltinglass/UCD) 70 75 72 79, I O’Rourke (Cork) 69 77 73 77
297 R Kenny (Hermitage) 76 71 72 78, G Boyd (Donaghadee) 75 71 72 79, D Coyle (Co. Louth) 72 75 74 76
298 D Kernohan (Galgorm Castle) 73 72 74 79
299 M Sinclair (Knock) 74 73 69 83, C Doran (Banbridge) 74 71 76 78
300 D Mallon (Dungannon) 76 71 73 80, D King (Tramore) 70 77 75 78
302 J Greene (Carlow) 79 69 74 80, J Hopkins (Skerries) 76 72 78 76
303 J Mulready (Castle) 76 71 79 77
304 D O’Donovan (Muskerry) 73 72 78 81, P O’Kane (Moyola Park) 72 75 79 78
306 M Brett (Portmarnock) 73 74 78 81