Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge captured his second amateur major in the space of eight days when he beat Knock’s Nicky Grant by a stroke in a three-hole aggregate play-off for the East of Ireland Amateur Open at Co Louth. In winning, he became the first man since Garth McGimpsey in 1988 to claim the ‘Close’ and the ‘East’ in the same season.
Winner of the Irish Close Championship at Royal Portrush last week and eight shots behind overnight leader James Fox starting the day, the 20-year old carded rounds of 69 and 70 to set the clubhouse target at two under par 286.
Ironically, Bangor great McGimpsey also won the Close at Royal Portrush 24 years ago but Selfridge’s two hour wait must have seemed as long after he finished his fourth round as the leaders were approaching the turn.
The University of Toledo freshman eventually saw Grant match him in the clubhouse when the Knock man birdied the 18th for a closing 69.
But in the three hole aggregate play-off over the first, second and ninth it was Selfridge who prevailed (par-par-par) when he got up and down for his from 122 yards at the ninth and Grant three-putted to add a bogey to his two pars.
“It feels fantastic, winning championships back to back,” said a delighted Selfridge, who was eight strokes behind overnight leader James Fox of Portmarnock entering yesterday’s final 36 holes. “I never thought I would get one win, never mind two.
“I had to wait for more than two hours for the play-off. But [my coach] Johnny Foster kept me mentally ready. I relaxed, had lunch, took my shoes off, went and hit some pitches, texted my friends….”
Smiling he added: “I was so ready for the play-off it was a breeze out there. I just won last week, so I had no pressure.”
It was a dramatic, action-packed final day that saw a host of players caress the famous old trophy only to see the silverware slip from their grasp in myriad circumstances over the final hour.
Fox led by four shots overnight from Co Sligo’s Gary McDermott on five under par but slipped to a morning 76 to find himself tied for the lead with Newlands’ Andrew Hogan (68) on one under heading into the final round with another ten players within four shots.
Selfridge was tied for second with defending champion Richard O’Donovan (68) on level par after a morning 69 with Grant (71), Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan (72) and Baltray’s Simon Ward (71) just a shot further back.
The evental winner birdied the second, third and sixth to get to three under, but bogeyed the 11th and three putted the 16th for another bogey before getting back to two under by holing a 12 footer for a two at the 17th.
He should have birdied the last but took three putts to get down from an awkward stance on the edge of the left-hand greenside bunker, lipping out from inside five feet.
It appeared that his miss might cost him the title but while Grant, Hogan and Fox all hovered around the two under par mark, no-one could break free.
Grant went out in two under with birdies at the third and seventh and picked up another shot at the 10th to tie for the lead with Fox, Hogan and clubhouse leader Selfridge on two under.
But he bogeyed the 15th and after par saves at the 16th and 17th, birdied the 18th to match Selfridge on two under.
Hogan turned in one under to remain tied for lead on two under playing the last but having missed several birdie chances during a fine,ballstriking day, he lost his drive in the jungle right of the 18th, racking up a seven for a 73 that relegated him to level par.
Sligo’s Michael Durcan, who was three off the lead with McDermott with a round to go, eventually carded a level par 72 share sixth place on level par with Hogan, Geoff Lenehan and Gary Hurley of West Waterford, who closed with a best of he afternoon 67.
Fox was always in the mix but after following a bogey at the second with birdies at the third and sixth to turn in two under for the championship, he hit a poor second right of the 11th off an average drive and bogeyed.
A birdie from 30 feet at the 13th got him back into a share of the lead but it was not to be for the 29-year old who was bidding to follow in the footsteps of his brother Noel, a three-time winner of the title.
After shaving the hole from 18 feet for birdie at the 15th, he brilliantly got up and down for his par four at the 16th, where he knifed his approach through the back and finished near the path that leads to the 17th tee.
A four footer there left him tied for the lead with Selfridge but he missed the 17th green to the right and faced with a tough putt from 40 feet from the edge of the bunker, he misjudged the line and failed with a slippery eight footer for par.
That left him tied with Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell, who was in the group ahead, on one under par playing the 18th. But Campbell, who had his uncle Paddy Gribben on the bag, failed to take advantage of two huge hits to the front of the 18th green.
Well short with his 60 foot eagle putt, he missed a 10 footer to join Selfridge and Grant on two under par, leaving the stage to Fox.
Needing a birdie four to keep his dream alive, the tall Dubliner found sand down the left, recovered well and then hit a glorious four-iron from 220 yards that finished around 18 feet above the hole.
Alas, he got the line right but forgot to hit the putt, finishing with a 72 that left him a shot outside the play-off on 287.
Grant had the honour but blocked his tee shot into the right rough as Selfridge blasted a driver into the right bunker. The Knock man hit a great second that finished short and left of the green, from where he two putted from 50 feet for his four.
But Selfridge had hit a great bunker shot to the front of the green and he matched his rival’s lag putt, tapping in for a safe par.
At the par-five second, Grant again failed to find the fairway off the tee, ending up in the traps on the left. Selfridge drew a three wood for safety, found the middle of the fairway and hit the same club some 40 yards short of the green on the left.
Grant, faced with over 220 yards to the pin, pulled his third onto the hill and after watching Selfridge pitch to 30 feet and come up short with his birdie chance, he hit a superb pitch to four feet below the back pin position and saved par.
Still tied on level par after the first two play-off holes, Grant hit a rescue off the ninth tee, carried the left hand trap by a few yards and appeared to find the second set of bunkers.
Believing Grant was in trouble, Selfridge opted for a four-iron off the tee but pulled it into the first trap on the left, finishing near the face.
Grant was 30 yards further ahead, miraculously finishing on top of the trap on the left. But Selfridge kept his cool and splashed out to 122 yards, just a little further than his favourite lay-up yardage.
Grant hit a good second to the front of the green some 45 feet short of the pin and looked on as Selfridge hit a sensational 52 degree wedge that danced to attention just three feet left of the stick
Under pressure now, Grant was tentative with his birdie putt. He came up at least eight feet short and pushed the par putt wide of the mark.
Left with just three feet for the title, Selfridge made no mistake. Having come through the tough side of the draw with opening rounds of 74 and 73, no-one could have any complaints.
East of Ireland 2012
County Louth Golf Club, Baltray, June 2-5, Par 72
Final(Rd 3 & 4 SSS and CSS 74)
286 Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park) 74 73 69 70
286 Nicky Grant (Knock) 74 72 71 69
Selfridge won after three-hole aggregate play-off over the 1st, 2nd and 9th holes:
Selfridge 4 5 4 (E); Grant 4 5 5 (+1)
287 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 73 72 74 68, Richard O’Donovan (Lucan) 71 77 68 71, James Fox (Portmarnock) 66 73 76 72
288 Andrew Hogan (Newlands) 75 72 68 73, Gary Hurley (West Waterford) 74 72 75 67 (Leading Youth), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 73 72 72 71, Michael Durcan (Co. Sligo) 72 72 74 70 (Jo Carbery Cup)
289 S Ward (Co. Louth) 71 75 71 72
290 R Whitson (Mourne) 74 77 69 70
291 J Carvill (Banbridge) 74 77 71 69 (Runner up Carbery Cup), G McDermott (Co. Sligo) 74 69 75 73
292 J Hume (Rathsallagh) 73 75 72 72, D Morgan (Mullingar) 70 75 74 73
293 H Diamond (Belvoir Park) 75 71 73 74
295 R Bridges (Stackstown) 75 77 69 74, S Dwyer (Lucan) 72 74 76 73, P Small (Bangor) 70 80 73 72
296 B Casey (Headfort) 75 75 73 73, R Cannon (Balbriggan) 71 78 72 75, E McCormack (Galway) 71 77 74 74
297 C Molloy (Ardee) 75 72 74 76, S Grehan (Tullamore) 71 80 73 73, R Weldon (Killeen Castle) 71 79 74 73
298 G Moynihan (The Island) 75 75 76 72, C O’Rourke (Naas/NUIM) 71 77 74 76
299 M Sinclair (Knock) 79 73 76 71, G Dunne (Seapoint) 74 77 77 71, G Bohill (Co. Louth) 74 76 72 77, M McAlpin (Royal Portrush) 73 72 78 76
301 R Gribben (Warrenpoint) 78 74 77 72, J Whelan (Newlands) 76 73 77 75, S Ryan (The Royal Dublin) 75 76 73 77, S O’Hara (Co. Sligo) 73 74 79 75, B Anderson (Co. Sligo/NUIM) 71 81 70 79
302 P McBride (The Island) 74 78 77 73, P Murray (Limerick) 72 77 76 77, S O’Connor (Skerries) 72 76 80 74
303 L Ashby (Killerig) 75 75 77 76
304 G McGrane (The Royal Dublin) 70 78 77 79
305 R Kenny (Naas/NUIM) 74 78 77 76, M Kane (Whitehead) 73 79 79 74
306 D Coyle (Co. Louth) 75 76 79 76, S Smyth (Co. Louth) 73 78 78 77, M McKnight (LPGA International, Fla.) 72 77 76 81, A Kiernan (Forrest Little) 70 76 79 81
307 C Rafferty (Greenore) 69 80 78 80
310 T O’Connor (Athlone) 77 75 83 75
311 M Shanahan (Castlemartyr) 74 78 80 79
Winner Agnew Trophy James Fox 68
Best Gross Round 1 James Fox 66
Best Gross Round 2 Gary McDermott 69
Best Gross Round 3 Richard O’Donovan 68
Best Gross Round 4 Gary Hurley 67
Holes-in-one: Shane Smyth 5th, Rd 1; Stephen Dwyer (Lucan) 15th Rd 2