East Cork end 20-year exile

Eric Fleming with East Cork PGA Professional Don MacFarlane

A barman from Cork admits he is feeling the pressure as he prepares to help his PGA pro end a 20-year exile from the Lombard Trophy with victory.

Eric Fleming will team up with his East Cork PGA Professional Don MacFarlane in the £43,600 Lombard Trophy final of the over the King’s Course at Gleneagles on September 2-3.

And it will be the first time since the mid-nineties that MacFarlane has competed in the final of what is Europe’s largest pro-am.

Of the 700-plus clubs who entered this year’s contest only 16 have made it through to the showpiece event, with Fleming and MacFarlane qualifying to represent Ireland following a play-off win in the regional final at The K Club.

For 29-year-old Manchester United supporter Fleming, who grew up admiring an on-fire Tiger Woods, this event will be the biggest he has ever played in.

The six-handicapper has only been playing golf for four years, and has never played in a national final – let alone at a venue such as Gleneagles.

And he admits he is feeling the pressure as he anticipates the challenge of playing at a venue which will be very much geared up to competitive golf, with the Ryder Cup visiting just three weeks later.

“I can’t wait to play at Gleneagles,” Fleming enthused. “Although I have to admit I am feeling a little bit nervous.

“Obviously there’ll be a bit of pressure, and a lot of that will come from the fact that I don’t want to let Don down.

“He’s a really good golfer and a nice fella, and I want to make sure we have the best possible chance of winning.

“I do feel confident though – I don’t see why we can’t win, after all we won the other one didn’t we?!”

MacFarlane, meanwhile, is remaining pragmatic as he looks for a winning return to the showpiece occasion.

“We’re going to have to go for it after waiting this long to qualify again,” he remarked.

“This is a great tournament and it has been far too long since I reached the final - just getting the amateurs involved creates a special environment and one that I enjoy being a part of.

“I’m sure with Eric we stand every chance of doing well. He’s a very solid golfer and he just needs to go there, enjoy it and we’ll see what we can do.”