Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon struck a blow for the part-time amateur when he led from start to finish as he claimed an impressive 2 and 1 victory over Castle’s Alex Gleeson in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship at Tramore.
The 23-year old dental technician — the only non Irish panel member to win a championship this year—made the cut on the mark after second round 74 and improved daily, seeing off the ever improving Eugene Smith by one hole in the semis before taking command and never letting go against Gleeson in the final
Winner of the Irish intervarsity title at Tramore four years ago, he is unlucky as far as an international selection is concerned that he won the 'Close' in a year when it was played after the Home Internationals.
The talented Gleeson, who was also denied a major by Stuart Grehan in the East, deservedly earned his international call up earlier this month, playing on the side that retained the Raymond Trophy at Royal Portrush.
The Dubliner was the hot favourite for the title having made five birdies and an eagle in his semi-final and surived a comeback by Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson, who was three down but rallied before losing to a long bomb birdie on the 19th.
“He (Gleeson) was probably classed as the favourite for the final,” McLarnon told Golfnet.ie. "Alex is a great player. Last time I played him, he beat me 6 and 4 in the Interpros two years ago. I knew he was going to fire birdies at me. And he did. And I was able to cope with it."
Four down early, Gleeson birdied the seventh and ninth to be just two down at the turn, then made another birdie at the 10th to get to within striking distance.
But McLarnon won the 11th in par and crucially halved the 12th in birdie and when he also birdied the 13th to go three up, victory was at hand.
Gleeson had chances for wins at the 14th and 15th and while he won the 16th with a two putt, McLarnon made a solid par at the 17th, rolling in a three footer for victory.
"I always believed I could win," said McLarnon, "I wouldn't turn up if I didn't believe I could win. When I got through the match against Jordan Hood yesterday, I had a good feeling that I could win it from there.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster but I've enjoyed it. This week it just came together at the time right time.”
According to Golfnet:
A technician at Armagh Dental Lab, McLarnon graduated from the University of Ulster last year and still finds time to play Gaelic football with his local club, Kickhams Creggan. His success at this week's Irish Close is the only victory for a player outside the national panel at this year's majors.
"This is why I play golf," said the new champion. "I come home from work, get dinner and go to the range until maybe 10 o'clock at night. That's what I do. Today it’s paid off."
AIG Irish Close Championship, Tramore Golf Club
Saturday 22 August
- Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) bt Alex Gleeson (Castle) 2/1
- Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) bt Eugene Smith (Ardee) 1 Hole
- Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) 19th