Shandon Park's Stuart Bleakley pulled off the biggest win of his short career when he beat Potrmarnock's Darragh Coghlan 3 and 2 to claim the Clare Coast Hotels sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
The 19-year old became the first player in recent memory to come all the way through from the first round draw to win the title and it was fitting that he emulated Shandon Park legends Davy Long, who won in 1974, and Neil Anderson, who captured the crown in 1984.
“I’m still in shock to be honest," said Bleakley, who had his father Geoff, a PGA professional, on his bag all week.
"When I looked up at the board at lunch time I saw Davy Long won it in ’74 and Neil Anderson in ’84 and with this being 2014, I thought it was fitting.
"When I was getting my picture with the trophy before the final I said to myself, 'no one is going to take this off me.'
“Everything just clicked for me and went right for me. I got a bit of luck sometimes but I played very good golf and it was great to see all the hard work with my dad and my coach Philip Farrell paying off. We’ve worked incredibly hard the last two years."
Bleakley won the first in par and and was conceded an eagle three at the second when he hit a 251-yard rescue to two and a half feet and didn't have to putt.
Coghlan admitted that the occasion got the better of him at the start and he was soon three down when he lipped out from four feet at the third.
But he steadied the ship, holing a good putt for a half at the fifth, another to win the sixth in par after a great pitch and yet another at the seventh to remain in touch.
When Bleakley overshot the eighth and conceded, there was just a hole in it. But Bleakley was nerveless on the greens all day and after holing an eight footer to save par on the ninth and head into the back nine with a one hole advantage, he got up and down from short of the 10th to win the hole and double his lead.
Coghlan won the 12th without having to putt as Bleakley got a back kick through the green and bogeyed.
But as misty rain turned heavy, the match was won and lost over the next three holes.
At the 13th, both found the left rough but Coghlan left himself a long birdie putt, came up short and three putted for bogey. Bleakley converted for a winning par from four feet to go two up again and then took the next when both found deep rough.
Coghlan got the worst of the two lies in the left rough and three putted for a six to go three down.
At the 15th both found the rough again but having seen Coghlan save par with a super pitch to two feet, Bleakley chipped to six feet and bravely holed the putt.
He then opened the door by bunkering his tee shot at the 16th but splashed out to three feet and after watching Coghlan's 30 footer fail to drop, he clinically holed his par putt for victory,
"My ball striking just wasn't there," said Coghlan of his slow start. "I suppose the occasion just got to me because it was there all week. I was solid this morning so the only thing that was changed was that it was the final.
"I got him back one down after nine and 12 but just hit a bad wedge shot on 13. I was too cautious about going long. It was just a defensive afternoon and I just wasn't free.
"I holed some good putts to keep myself in the match but I had two divots off the tee on six and seven but I was always on the back foot. It was a good run and I’ll be better for it. I’ll definitely be back. Next time I make a final, I’ll fancy my chances."
Shandon Park's Stuart Bleakley and Portmarnock's Darragh Coghlan will meet in this afternoon's final of the Clare Coast Hotels sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
Bleakley, 19, beat Waterford's Eanna Griffin 3 and 2 as Coghlan came back from two down after nine to beat his close friend Richard Knightly of Royal Dublin 2 and 1.
Bleakley — still just a one-handicapper — has come storming through the field from last Saturday's first round with an incredible display of golf.
With his father Geoff, the PGA professional, on his bag, Bleakley started par-birdie-biride-eagle to go three up.
Griffin made a two at The Dell to get back to two down but Bleakley birdied the sixth to go five under for the round and three up again.
"I gave him the seventh and then he gave me the eighth back," said Bleakley, who was a 150-1 chance last Friday. "We halved nine and he won 10 where i made a bad bogey to get back to two down."
Griffin then missed a short putt at the 11th for par and could only halve the hole and soon found himself three down again when Bleakley won the 12th with a birdie.
The 13th and 14th were halved in pars before Bleakley hit a poor pitch from the back of the green on the 15th to see his lead reduced to two up with three to play.
However, he closed out the match at the par-three 16th, safely making par as Griffin faced a tough birdie putt and three-putted to lose the hole and the match 3 and 2.
"I'm very happy to get through to the final," Bleakley said. "Every match is a bonus for me and it's good to see the hard work I've been doing with my coach Philip Farrell paying off for me.
"This is close enough to the best I've ever played. To be under par in both rounds yesterday was pretty special and tough to do out there. I don't think you'd win a strokeplay event under par out there but there is less pressure on you in matchplay.
"I was a scratch player when I was at Balmoral, where my Dad was the pro for 22 years, but I moved to Shandon Park about 18 months ago because it's closer to my house.
"I'm delighted. Let's see how it goes this afternoon."
In the other semi-final, Darragh Coghlan produced some fine golf down the stretch to come back from two down after nine to beat him friend Richard Knightly 2 and 1.
A birdie at the 12th saw Coghlan get back to one down and he then levelled the match with a winning par at the 14th, getting up and down from 110 yard for his four as Knightly three-putted.
It turned out to be the turning point.
After a half in par at the 15th, Coghlan holed what he described as an "outrageous" birdie putt from more than 30 feet over the ridge at the 16th to go one up before closing out the match by 2 and 1 with a winning par four at the 17th.
"I felt sorry for Richard but rather him than me!" Coghlan said of his win over a man who's been his best friend since they were 12.
Knightly was disappointed for himself but delighted for Coghlan.
"I birdied nine which was great and I was happy to halve 10 and then halve 11 with a brilliant bunker shot. On 12 I didn't hit a great chip and he a great chip and birdied it, fair enough.
"The 14th was a bit of a turning point. I tried to drill an eight iron and it popped up on me a bit when I was expecting to land and skip up and he hit a superb pitch and holed and I three putted. That's just matchplay.
"He got back to square with a birdie and a par, which was fine and we both hit good chips on 15 and picked up.
"The 16th, I went way left but hit a great chip. But Darragh just knocked the stuffing out of me with a great putt — a bit like the way I chipped in on 15 against Ian O'Rourke yesterday afternoon. It went over all the slopes.
"Then on 17 I just hit a bad shot in and Darragh chipped it dead again. The 16th just knocked the stuffing out of me but I had a great run and I'm delighted with my week. Darragh is playing great golf but I hear Stuart is playing ridiculous golf. I'd love to see Darragh do it though and I'll be out there with the lads this afternoon watching the final."
With a stiff 18-20mph west breeze blowing at Lahinch, conditions are perfect for links golf.
SOUTH OF IRELAND AMATEUR OPEN 2014
(SPONSORED BY CLARE COAST HOTELS), LAHINCH GC
WEDNESDAY - SEMI-FINALS
Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) bt Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 3/2
Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock) bt Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 2/1
Final at 2pm
Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) v Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock)