Ireland’s case for five of the 10 Walker Cup places was strengthend in Slovakia when West Waterford’s Gary Hurley produced a performance on demand by finishing second in the International European Amateur Championship for the second year running.
His critics will point to the fact that he “only” managed a level par 72 in the final round and made just one birdie as he was overhauled by Italy Stefano Mazzoli, who closed with a 68 to win by one on 19 under par.
That would be churlish talk considering the pressure the Maynooth University player was under and as the fourth highest ranked in the world from GB&I and almost certain of promotion to third next week, it is difficult to see how his omitted from the line up to face the USA at Royal Lytham and St Annes could possibly be justified.
The player himself put it best on twitter after the round:
Hurley began the final day with a one stroke lead over Lytham Trophy winner Marcus Kinhult of Sweden, who would close with a 74 for a share of sixth.
As Hurley started steadily, it was Mazzoli who streaked clear by racing to the turn in five under 31, coming from three behind to take the lead.
Hurley began with 10 consecutive pars and it was his Irish team mate Gavin Moynihan who closed in on the lead, playing the first 11 in three under before two birdies and two bogeys down the stretch for a 69 left him alone in third on 17 under.
Mazzoli fell back into a share of the lead with Hurley when he bogeyed the 10th and 11th. But the Italian, to his credit, birdied the 15th and short 16th and then parred the last two hole to set the target at 19 under 269
Hurley had gone to 19 under, and one under for the day, with his soliitary birdie at the par-five 11th. But his lone bogey at the 13th proved fatal and knowing he needed to play the last three holes in one under to match Mazzoli and force a playoff, he had to settle for three pars despite playing some superb golf.
He did it in good company too as Paul Dunne, the hero at the Open Championship last month, came out to caddie for him having closed with a 68 to finish tied 11th.
Dunne had completed his round with Cormac Sharvin on his bag after the Ardglass man, winner of the Brabazon Trophy and considered a certain Walker Cup pick, shot an early morning 73 to claim 62nd in five under.
The camaraderie displayed by Sharvin and Dunne, who is Hurley’s regular foursomes partner, explains why Ireland won the Home Internationals and came second in the European Amateur Team Championships last year.
Robin Dawson, who was below his best earlier this year, tied sixth on 15 under after a 70 in what is a good omen for his reappearance for Ireland in the Home Internationals at Royal Portrish from Wednesday next.
As for Jack Hume, who was 19th on 13 under after a 72, he is clearly more than worthy of serious considered for Walker Cup selection given his flair and consistency this year and last.
Good performances in the Home Internationals and, in the case of Dunne, Sharvin and Hurely, in the US Amateur Championship the week after next, will make it tough for the selectors to ignore Ireland’s call for an historic five Walker Cup sport for the men in green.
International European Amateur Championship, Penati Golf Resort (Legend Course, Par 72) Slovakia
CBA: Round 1 = 0, Round 2 = +1, Round 3 = +1, Round 4 = 0
1 MAZZOLI, Stefano Monticello -19 65 67 69 68 269
2 HURLEY, Gary West Waterford/Maynooth Univ -18 68 65 65 72 270
3 MOYNIHAN, Gavin The Island -17 70 65 67 69 271
T4 GREGORY, Scott Corhampton -16 64 70 70 68 272
T4 THOMSON, Jonathan Lindrick -16 69 64 68 71 272
T6 RUUSKA, Lauri Tarinagolf -15 67 72 65 69 273
T6 DAWSON, Robin Faithlegg -15 65 69 69 70 273
T6 KINHULT, Marcus Skaftö Gk -15 64 69 66 74 273
T6 DETRY, Thomas Royal Golf Club of Belgium -15 65 67 68 73 273
T6 BOWER, Jamie Meltham -15 66 65 71 71 273
T11 DUNNE, Paul Greystones -14 69 67 70 68 274
T19 HUME, Jack Naas Golf Club -13 65 67 71 72 275
T62 SHARVIN, Cormac Ardglass Golf Club -5 74 69 67 73 283
MC MCELROY, Dermot Ballymena -5 72 69 70 211
MC GLEESON, Alex Castle -1 71 72 72 215