Royal Dublin's Barry Anderson became the first native-born Rosses Point man to win the West of Ireland Championship for 67 years when he wore down Portmarnock's Jack Pierse with a relentless physical and mental display at County Sligo.
Played in near idyllic conditions — bright sunshine and a negligible breeze in front of hundreds of home supporters — the 26-year old accountant snatched a three up lead after four holes and never gave an inch after that, winning 3 and 2.
That he lost just one hole — the 10th — was a testament to his determination to take his big chance and clinch a title that's a dream for every County Sligo golfer.
A superb birdie from six feet at the 15th, where he resisted the temptation to match Pierse's huge drive to within 70 yards of the green but chose to lay up with a rescue and go in with a nine iron, summed up his discipline and his precision.
"I just wore him down," Anderson said. "I've no idea why I was so relaxed. I had no expectations coming here.
"Getting to the final day was a dream in itself. I just wanted to do myself justice and play well today and I knew if I played well out there, I was going to be tough to beat."
Pierse three-putted from off the green at the first, lost the second to Anderson's 10-foot birdie putt and followed a tame half in par-fives at the third where he took three from the front edge — Andeson "stole" a half from 15 feet having bunkered his tee shot — by losing the fourth to a solid par three.
On a windy day, the 26-year old Dubliner with Tipperary roots might have hoped to claw holes back here and there and match his uncle Arthur Pierse by winning the title.
But against a Rosses Point ball-striker of Anderson's class, he was given no real opportunities to claim easy holes and with precious little luck on the greens, he won only the 10th after his opponent got a poor lie and sprayed a rare iron shot wide of the green.
While he'd beaten 20-year old Armagh dairy farmer William Small from Tandragee by 3 and 2 in the morning having gone four up after seven, Anderson gave him no encouragement at all after lunch.
“I thought if I could stick at it and stick at it and get him to 17, I’d be right there, but he didn’t let me back in,” said Pierse, who regretted following Anderson into a greenside bunker at the short ninth. where they halved in bogey to leave the three-hole margin unchanged.
"He hit it down every fairway, hit it a lot of greens and holed a lot of putts. I needed to make a couple of putts to get back at him and they kept going by the edge."
While Derbyshire born Jimmy Feeney, a son of Rosses Point native Leo, won playing out of Chapel en le Frith in 1985, yesterday's win by Anderson was the first by a local since Cecil Ewing captured the last of his ten titles in 1950.
That he did it as a 26-year old who works full time in accountancy came as a shock having failed to get beyond the quarter-finals when he was a full-time scholarship golfer with Maynooth University.
"I am shell-shocked," Anderson said after closing out the match on the 16th green in two under par figures. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd win this week.
"I thought other years when I was playing a lot more golf, I had a better chance.
"I was only teeing it up because I thought I would miss it if I didn't. I had zero expectations, and now I have surpassed my wildest dreams."
Having come from three down after four holes to beat Newlands' Jake Whelan 5 and 3 in the morning, Anderson played the first four holes in one under and found himself three up.
Once ahead, he played to his strengths and vowed not to give holes away cheaply.
"I got into my own zone and inside my own head and blocked everything else out," he said. "It seemed to work well. All I wanted to do today was play well and if I played well and it was good enough, then great.
"If I played well and someone beat me, so be it. So I was delighted I played well in the end.”
West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, sponsored by Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, County Sligo GC
- Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt William Small (Tandragee) 3/2;
- Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt Jake Whelan (Newlands) 5/3.
Anderson bt Pierse 3/2.