Grehan nets five-shot "East" win as 100kph winds force 54 holes

Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) playing his second shot to the 11th green in round three the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Even veterans like two-time winner Declan Branigan agreed that the right decision had been made after torrential rain and southerly winds forecast to gust over 100kph, reduced to the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Amateur Open to 54 holes for the first time in its 75-year history.

And so Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, who led after every round, was declared the winner on four under par 212, five strokes better than Knock’s Colin Fairweather and six ahead of Castle’s Alex Gleeson.

“To win feels great,” said Grehan, who was tied fifth behind Gavin Moynihan in the recent Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin and now hopes to win a full Irish cap in August’s Home Internationals in Portrush. “I felt good coming in this week but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. 

Winner Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) with his girlfriend Carla Reynolds after his victory in the City North Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and I was nervous this morning and over the first tee shot. But once I got that away, I was fine.”

Since Joe Carr won the inaugural “East” in 1941, the champion has always completed 72 holes on the famous County Louth links in Baltray.

Branigan could remember a particular tough year in 1975 when Adrian Morrow won with a total of 300 and the Laytown and Bettystown man needed to “hammer” a one-iron just to hit the par-three 15th.

Had the final three-ball been allowed to go that far in round four, they may not have required that much firepower to get home in near hurricane conditions on the 15th. But it would have taken heavy artillery to make it up the 18th in a reasonable number of blows given the southerly wind.

Explaining why the decision was taken to cancel round four and reduce the tournament to 54 holes, Leinster Golf’s Joe McNamara, the championship director, said: “The weather was only going to get increasingly worse so we made a decision to cancel the round rather than prolong the agony.

“Up to 6ml of rain was forecast from two o’clock to six o’clock [as well as wind gusts up to 100 kph] and it was impossible to play the game to a proficient standard.”

Michael Connaughton (President, Golfing Union of Ireland) presenting Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) with the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship trophy at County Louth Golf Club (01/06/2015). Also in the picture is Mrs Sinead Kennedy (wife of the club Captain). Picture by Pat Cashman

Grehan had stormed six shots clear overnight — the biggest halfway lead at the East for eight years. And while he was just four strokes ahead of Gleeson playing the last two holes in a morning round of 76 that featured two birdies, two bogeys and double bogeys at the par-three seventh and 15th holes, he dug deep when needed.

As Gleeson finished bogey-bogey for a 75 and Irish Close champion John-Ross Galbraith took nine on the 18th for a 79, Grehan pitched to six feet to set up a crucial par three at the 17th before draining a slick 12 footer down the hill for par at the 18th for a 76 and a 54-hole total of four under par 212.

“I was well in it until the 18th and one bad shot just ruined it really,” Whitehead’s Galbraith said afterwards. “It was down to Alex and Colin this afternoon but think it was the best decision though they should have just said 54 holes this morning because they knew this weather was coming in. It was the fairest decision and Stuart deserved to win.”

ohn Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) driving at the 16th hole in the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Knock’s Colin Fairweather posted a fine 73 — bettered only by 72s by Galgorm Castle’s Jamie Sutherland and Stackstown’s Richard Bridges in round three — to set the target at one over par before Grehan came in on four under 212 with that 76.

But the wind and rain that had already blowed steadily at 50kph and gusted well over 60kph in the morning, showed no signs of abating in the afternoon when the rain came in sheets and wind speeds rose steadily before play was called off at around 3pm.

“It was tough enough this morning,” Gleeson said after he had shaken hands  with the winner on the third green. “It wasn’t golf.”

Five shots clear of Fairweather starting the final round having posted a 76 in miserable conditions in the morning, Grehan opened round four with two pars but admitted he was relieved to see an official approach as he prepared to putt for bogey from 20 feet on the third having his his seven iron approach long left and pitched up the hill.

He certainly produced the goods when required on Saturday, Sunday and yesterday morning.

Colin Fairweather (Knock) driving at the 10th tee. Picture by Pat Cashman

Grehan had stormed six shots clear overnight — the biggest halfway lead for eight years. And while he was just four strokes ahead of Gleeson playing the last two holes in a four over 76 that featured two birdies, two bogeys and double bogeys at the par-three seventh and 15th holes, where he went long and into sand right respectively.

“It’s not the best I have ever played but I holed a lot of putts when I really needed to so I was happy with that,” Grehan said, adding that the input of putting coach Donal Scott, Maynooth’s Paddy Harrington Scholarship manager Barry Fennelly and key coaches such as Johnny Foster and Yoga for Golf’s Anne Marie Kennedy had been huge.

As a former All Ireland Under 13 Pitch and Putt champion, Grehan’s short game was clearly crucial in the conditions.

The wind and rain that had lashed the final three ball for more than five hours and 15 minutes in the morning round showed no signs of abating in the afternoon and officials didn’t wait long to call off play.

Alex Gleeson (Castle) and John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) lining up their putts on the 9th green in the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club (01/06/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

While the Royal Dublin’s Jeff Hopkins was reportedly three under after seven holes in the final round and within six of the leader on two over, it was hard to disagree with the decision to end play. The storm worsened and it was not until late afternoon that it abated.

Gleeson and Grehan had both parred the first two holes in round four but while Gleeson as disappointed, he clearly wasn’t having any fun on the course, admitting, “this isn’t golf.”

Alex Gleeson (Castle) playing his bunker shot to the 11th green in the City North Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club today (01/06/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

“I would have preferred if they had played on because I was chasing Stuart but it was absolutely the right decision,” Gleeson said in the clubhouse afterwards.

Grehan, 22, was thrilled to get his first senior championship victory having won the Irish Youths title after a playoff in Loughrea in 2012. 

He left Eastern Michigan University in 2013 suffering from homesickness and felling unhappy, ironically, that Detroit’s bad winter weather left him with no way of practicing.

But having secured a Paddy Harrington Scholarship at Maynooth University, where he studies Entrepreneurship, the improved mental game and putting techniques he has picked up recently were key to his win, especially in yesterday’s tough weather.

Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) playing his second shot to the 9th green in the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club (01/06/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

“It’s fantastic to win such a prestigious title,” he said. “Maynooth has been great for me because it offers a nice mixture of golf and the academics and my game has come on a lot in my first year there.”

The midlander paid tribute to his friends at Seapoint, especially his girlfriend Carla Reynolds and her father Dan, who caddied. 

“The difference between the Close last year and this week is mental,” he said, pointing to his decision to change coach and go to Eamonn O’Flanagan at the Heritage last August as huge. 

“He has a Masters in psychology as well,” Grehan said. “That was big.”

 Stuart Grehan and his caddie Dan Reynolds on the third green shortly after play was called. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Stuart Grehan and his caddie Dan Reynolds on the third green shortly after play was called. Picture by Pat Cashman

East of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, Sponsored by CityNorth Hotel, County Louth (Par 72)

Final Scores - 54 holes

Par 72  (CSS R1 77 R2 76 R3 77) - Detailed scoreboard

212 Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) 67 69 76 

217 Colin Fairweather (Knock) 68 76 73 

218 Alex Gleeson (Castle) 72 71 75 

219 Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle) 73 74 72, Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr) 70 76 73 

220 Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.) 76 70 74 

221 Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 72 77 72, Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) 71 75 75, John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) 71 71 79

222 Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) 73 73 76, Kyle McCarron (North West) 73 73 76 

223 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 77 71 75, Pat Murray (Limerick) 74 73 76, Gavin Smyth (Clonmel) 73 75 75, Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) 73 72 78, Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 72 75 76, Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) 69 76 78 

224 Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin) 78 72 74, Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) 75 74 75, Greg Mungovan (Headfort) 72 74 78, Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) 71 73 80, Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin) 70 76 78, Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay) 70 74 80

225 Joe Lyons (Galway) 76 71 78, Matthew McClean (Balmoral) 73 76 76, Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth) 71 78 76 

226 Colm Crowley (Woodbrook) 77 73 76

227 Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 78 70 79, Aaron Grant (Dundalk) 75 71 81, Paul McCarthy (Mallow) 73 77 77, Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 73 75 79, Ian Lynch (Rosslare) 70 78 79, Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 69 77 81 

228 Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) 79 73 76, Theo Coffey (Slieve Russell) 77 73 78, Stephen Watts (Cairndhu) 76 75 77, Stephen Healy (Carton House) 73 78 77, Marc Boucher (Carton House) 73 77 78, John Hickey (Cork) 73 76 79, Liam Hutchinson (The Royal Dublin) 70 77 81 

229 Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 78 73 78, Ryan Symington (Lisburn) 74 76 79, Jonathan Yates (Naas) 72 78 79, Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) 72 72 85, Alan Dowling (Hermitage) 70 81 78, Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo) 69 80 80

230 Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud) 74 76 80

231 Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle) 78 73 80, Stephen Brady (Galway) 74 76 81

232 Gary Collins (Rosslare) 78 74 80 

233 David Reddan (Nenagh) 74 77 82

Non Qualifiers

152 Eugene Smith (Ardee) 77 75, Barry Daly (Edmondstown) 77 75, Padhraic O'Brien (Co. Louth) 76 76, Paul Reavey (Warrenpoint) 76 76, James Fox (Portmarnock) 75 77, Gary O'Flaherty (Cork) 75 77, Daryl Callister (Mount Murray) 75 77, Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire) 74 78, John Greene (Portmarnock) 74 78, Ben Best (Rathmore) 74 78, Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock) 74 78

153 Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) 78 75, Ryan Gribben (Warrenpoint) 77 76, Keith Egan (Carton House) 77 76, Shaun O'Connor (Carton House) 77 76, Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo) 75 78, Michael Sinclair (Knock) 75 78, John McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown) 73 80, Connor Doran (Banbridge) 72 81, Gareth Bohill (Co. Louth) 72 81

154 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 80 74, Gary McDermott (Carton House) 78 76, Paul Coughlan (Moate) 78 76, William Hanna (Kilkeel) 77 77, Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin) 77 77, Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 76 78, Kevin Le Blanc (The Island) 76 78, Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) 76 78, Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) 75 79, Thomas Mulligan (Co. Louth) 75 79, Sean Doyle (Athlone) 74 80, Daniel Holland (Castle) 73 81, Angus Carrick (Douglas Park) 73 81, Karl Purcell (Dun Laoghaire) 73 81

155 Neil McKinstry (Cairndhu) 77 78, Sean Walsh (Carton House) 77 78, Cian Dullaghan (Greenore) 76 79, Mark Mullen (Rosslare) 74 81

156 Michael Buggy (Castlecomer) 79 77, Daniel Coyle (Portmarnock) 76 80, Evan Farrell (Ardee) 76 80, Daniel Brennan (Shannon) 76 80

157 Herve Blanco (France) 81 76, Roy Connolly (Palmerstown Stud) 81 76, Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo) 79 78, Mark O'Rourke (Royal Tara) 79 78, Robert Neville (The Links Portmarnock) 79 78, Dan Murphy (Portarlington) 78 79, Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 77 80, Liam Grehan (Mullingar) 77 80, Robbie Pierse (Grange) 76 81

158 David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 83 75, Rory Williamson (Holywood) 81 77, Matthew Kane (Whitehead) 79 79, Mark Power (Kilkenny) 78 80, Nigel Beirth (Co. Louth) 76 82, Simon Bryan (Delgany) 75 83

159 Shane Walsh (Killeen) 82 77, Chris Drumm (The Royal Dublin) 80 79, Jake Whelan (Newlands) 78 81, Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) 78 81, Niall Goulding (Portmarnock) 78 81, Thomas O'Connor (Athlone) 77 82 , Thomas Hackett (USA) 77 82

160 Paul Murphy (Rosslare) 85 75, Marc Nolan (Delgany) 80 80, Christopher O'Connor (Corrstown) 78 82, Ronan O'Reilly (Headfort) 74 86

161 Keith Murphy (Charlesland) 82 79, Peter Kane (Ashbourne) 81 80, Alan Duffy (Royal Tara) 79 82, Finnian O'Doherty (Letterkenny) 79 82, Quentin Carew (Edenderry) 77 84

162 Karl Murray (Delgany) 83 79, Sebastien Alsuguren (France) 82 80, Allan Kiernan (Forrest Little.) 81 81, Luke Robinson (Bundoran) 81 81, Ryan O'Doherty (Enniscrone) 80 82, Ruairi Kennelly (Portmarnock) 80 82 , Gerard Lawlor (Craddockstown) 78 84 , Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 78 84

163 John McCarthy (Stackstown) 84 79, Paraic Connolly (Killeen Castle) 82 81, Michael Brett (Portmarnock) 80 83, Edward O'Keeffe (Corrstown) 79 84

164 Shane Whooley (Muskerry) 80 84, Liam Ashby (Naas) 80 84

165 Stephen Kinch (Hollystown) 81 84, Tony O'Leary (Wexford) 80 85 

166 James Monaghan (The Royal Dublin) 84 82, Shane Mc Dermott (Co. Cavan) 83 83, Conor Coyne (Youghal) 82 84

167 Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little.) 82 85, Mark MacGrath (Limerick) 81 86

170 Declan O'Neill (Carton House) 82 88

171 Declan Kelly (Hermitage) 86 85

WD Gary McGrane (The Royal Dublin) 75 WD,78 Timothy Jordan (Dungannon) 78 WD Greg O’Mahony (Fota Island) 79 WD, Alan Fahy (Bray) 79 WD, 80 John Conroy (Bray) 80 WD, Shane McGlynn (Carton House) 81 WD, Niall Foley (The Island) 81 WD, Jonathan Gourley (Shandon Park) 82 WD, Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire) 82 WD.

Winner Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) after his victory in the City North Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman