The old biblical adage that says that the good and the just are always rewarded rang true at Shannon as Portstewart’s Paul Cutler bravely birdied two of his last three holes to win the first strokeplay staging of the Golfsure sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship by two shots.
The 22-year old Walker Cup prospect could have shot himself out of contention had he lost his patience and his cool in the third round, when he called a shot on himself and racked up a triple bogey seven at the ninth.
The Ulsterman’s ball moved as he tried to identify it in the trees and he immediately called an official over to inform him of the transgression.
He said: “I went to identify the ball and it moved and I hadn’t marked it so I had to call a shot on myself there.”
He eventually carded a 77 to go into the final round tied for the lead with Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney, Limerick’s Pat Murray and Muskerry’s Niall Gorey on three over par with Rathmore’s Wayne Telford and Forrest Little’s Eoin Arthurs a further stroke adrift.
But he emerged victorious in the end, finishing birdie-par-birdie to card a closing, one under par 71 in blustery conditions for a two-stroke win over fellow Irish senior squad members Kearney and Murray with a two-over par total of 290.
The first player to etch his name on the Close and West of Ireland trophies in the same year since Rory McIlroy in 2006, Cutler said: “Irish Close champion has a very nice ring to it. I really struggled this morning so I am really glad I came through in the end.
“The change to the strokeplay format this year played into my hands a little more and I’d be all in favour of the change. Although I won the West of Ireland title at matchplay, I prefer strokeplay.
“I know Rory McIlroy was the last to win the West and the Close in the same year and to have my name beside his on the two trophies has got a nice ring to it as well. I’m very happy.”
Kearney edged a stroke in front with five holes to play when he birdied the 13th and Cutler clumsily bogeyed the short 12th by chipping off the front of the green from the back fringe.
But the 24-year old from Castlerock made a triple bogey seven at the 14th to leave Cutler a shot in front of Murray, who birdied the 16th and 18th for a frustrating 73 that set the clubhouse target at four over 292.
Kearney almost bettered Murray’s total but after making birdie the 16th he lipped out from eight feet for eagle at the 18th and carded a 73 to match the Limerick man’s four over par total.
Cutler bogeyed the 15th to slip to four over par but with the pressure mounting, he punched a 130 yard nine iron to five feet at the 16th and holed the birdie putt to edge in front.
Needing only a par-five at the downwind 18th for victory, he got up and down from just off the green for a closing birdie and a deserved victory.
“I knew Aaron was one ahead of me with six to play and then tripled the 14th. Then I heard that Pat Murray had posted a score, so I knew I needed to perform on the last few holes.
“I bogeyed the 15th and I knew I needed a good finish and thanfully I was able to produce one.”
The key to his win was his brilliant birdie at the 394-yard 16th where he drilled a perfect drive into the breeze and punched a 130-yard nine iron to five feet and holed the putt.
“The pressure was sort of off playing the last. Once I heard that Aaron hadn’t made his eagle putt, I was thinking of hitting two iron but I was comfortable hitting driver and made birdie
Golfsure Irish Amateur Close Championship, Shannon GC (Par 72)
290 P Cutler (Portstewart) 69 73 77 71
292 A Kearney (Castlerock) 76 71 72 73, P Murray (Limerick) 75 74 70 73
293 M Durcan (Co. Sligo) 74 75 72 72, E Arthurs (Forrest Little) 72 72 76 73
294 G McDermott (Co. Sligo) 73 74 76 71, D Crowe (Dunmurry) 69 74 77 74
295 S Walsh (Baltinglass) 79 70 73 73, N Grant (Knock) 75 73 73 74, J Morris (Rosslare) 74 72 75 74
296 W Telford (Rathmore) 73 75 72 76
297 M Sinclair (Knock) 74 77 73 73, H Diamond (Belvoir Park) 74 73 76 74, N Gorey (Muskerry) 70 74 75 78
298 S Crowe (Dunmurry) 74 73 77 74
299 J Hume (Rathsallagh) 76 75 75 73
300 S Moloney (Castletroy) 74 75 79 72
302 C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 80 73 78 71, A Dunbar (Rathmore) 78 74 72 78, D Barry (Mahon) 76 75 77 74, R Leonard (Banbridge) 74 73 78 77, E McCormack (Galway) 74 72 78 78, R Whitson (Mourne) 71 79 77 75
303 M McKnight (Lisburn) 75 75 75 78
304 A Kelly (Charleville) 76 76 77 75, B Anderson (Co. Sligo) 76 73 76 79
305 P Lyons (Cork) 75 76 80 74, D Murphy (Portarlington) 73 77 79 76
307 T Cleary (Cork) 79 71 80 77, D Holland (Castle) 76 74 79 78, E Long (Monkstown) 73 77 79 78
308 J Fox (Portmarnock) 76 76 80 76, C Daly (Castletroy) 74 73 81 80.