Gary Hurley looked certain to join some of the legends of world golf only to have the Spanish Amateur Championship cruelly snatched from his grasp on the final hole of a heart-stopping 36-hole decider at Sherry Golf in Jeréz.
The 22-year old from West Waterford and Maynooth University was two up with three to play but Jeroen Krietemeijer of the Netherlands birdied the 16th and then spectacularly eagled the 17th to draw level before taking the title with a par four at the difficult closing hole.
Hurley had driven into sand off the 18th tee and had to lay up. But with Krietemeijer just 30 feet away in two having taken a dangerous line down the right and avoided the water, Hurley hit a poor third from around 80 yards to 30 feet. After failing to hole for par, he could only look on as the 21-year old Dutchman two-putted for a dramatic victory that proved that his share of 59th place in the KLM Open on the European Tour last year was no fluke.
The Irish ace was bidding to become the fifth Irish winner of the title after Philip Walton (1981), Michael Quirke (1987), Darren Clarke (1990) and Reeve Whitson (2013) but he could only take his hat off to Krietemeijer, who hit an incredible three wood to 15 feet to set up his eagle at the 35th and then hit two solid shots to the last.
Having beaten two time European champion Ashley Chesters in the semi-finals, the performance still puts Hurley firmly in position to stake a serious claim to a place in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team to face the United States at Royal Lytham later this year.
The final, which was delayed by two hours because of early morning fog, was all square after the morning 18.
Hurley won the 19th with a par four to go one up and halved the 20th in birdie fours to remain in front.
A bogey at the 21st, where he missed an eight footer for his par five, saw Hurley begged back to all square by Krietemeijer.
The short 22nd was halved in pars but Hurley went one up again at the par-five 23rd, hitting a 100 yard wedge to three feet for a conceded birdie at the Dutchman couldn't match from 18 feet.
He was soon two up when he hit another superb wedge to the sixth, knocking it to six feet and holing the putt to double his advantage as Krietemeijer missed from 12 feet.
Ranked 225th in the world, Krietemeijer would not go away and holed a 25 footer for a two at the par-three 25th to reduce Hurley's advantage to one up and a five footer at the next for another birdie to square the match.
Hurley made the turn one up, however, after Krietemeijer three putted for bogey.
They then halved the 28th and 29th in par before Hurley saved a great par at the 203-yard 29th, draining a curling eight footer for par and a half after leaving himself a very difficult two-putt from 30 feet.
Still one up after halves at the 13th and island green 14th, Hurley and Krietemeijer both found the 15th from difficult spots on the left.
After watching Krietemeijer miss a 25 footer, Hurley stalked his 10 footer and drained it go go two up with three to play.
Krietemeijer won the driveable 16th in the morning by going for the green off the tee and he did it again in the afternoon and made birdie again.
This time he was short with his tee shot but after knocking his 40 foot putt from the fairway some eight feet past the hole, he holed the return after Hurley had missed from 35 feet.
Now just one up with two holes to go, Hurley could only observe as Krietemeijer hit a =n incredible, 260 yard three wood to 15 feet at the 17th. The Irishman chipped dead from left of the green for a fine birdie but his opponent was in no mood to take his foot off the gas and cooly holed for eagle to square the match.
It all ended in dramatic fashion on the 18th green, having begun two hours late because of early morning fog.
Hurley was one up after 13 holes and two up after 14 in his bid to become the fifth Irish winner of the prestigious King's Cup at the Jerez venue.
Krietemeijer birdied the 15th to cut Hurley's lead to just one up and with the tee moved up at the 16th, the Dutchman took advantage.
While Hurley decided to lay up, Krietemeijer drove the green and two putted for birdie, holing a six footer to square the match.
It remained that way at lunch with both players making par fives at the 17th and pars at the last, where Hurley two putted from 60 feet.
The Maynooth University golfer was the model of consistency in the morning round, making one birdie and 17 pars.
Irish winners of the Spanish Amateur Championship for the Copa del Rey - (Click here for all past winners)
- 1981 Torrequebrada, Philip Walton beat J. López Moreno 3 and 2
- 1987 Aloha, Michael Quirke beat O. Carrisson
- 1990 El Saler, Darren Clarke beat Sven Struver 7 and 5
- 2013 La Manga, Reeve Whitson beat Neil Raymond 4 and 3