Determined Dawson comes of age with "overdue" major win
 Robin Dawson (Tramore) holes his final putt on the 18th green to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down Golf. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Robin Dawson (Tramore) holes his final putt on the 18th green to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down Golf. Picture by Pat Cashman

There's nothing like some shiny silverware to reinforce the feeling that you're doing the things right.

And so it was for Tramore's Robin Dawson, who ended his five-year wait for a major championship victory when survived some back nine drama to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open by four strokes from England's John Gough and Castle's Alex Gleeson at Royal County Down on two-under par.

“There were a lot of players with championships and I wasn’t one of them, which really bothered me," he confessed minutes after some emotional embraces with his family members on the 18th green. 

"I feel very relieved knowing that all the stuff I have been working on has been the right stuff. This will give me a lot of belief.”

 Robin Dawson (Tramore) in trouble at the 15th hole during the final day. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Robin Dawson (Tramore) in trouble at the 15th hole during the final day. Picture by Pat Cashman

The Old Lady of Newcastle bore her consider teeth on the final day, when a cold southerly wind, gusting close to 30 mph at times, turned 22-year-old Dawson's seemingly triumphal procession into battle for survival.

Six ahead of England's Alex Fitzpatrick overnight, the big Waterford man lost a ball off the tee at the ninth but still extended his lead to seven shots over Gleeson and Gough heading down the back nine.

While Gleeson got to within six shots of him with a birdie at the 12th, Dawson looked to be cruising to a comfortable wire-to-wire victory when he birdied the 13th from 15 feet to go seven ahead again.

But Royal County Down is Royal County Down and within 30 minutes, Dawson's lead was down to three, leading to a fraught final hour and, eventually, a happy ending with the title heading for Tramore.

 Robin Dawson (Tramore) shows off the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship trophy at Royal County Down Golf's famous ninth hole. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Robin Dawson (Tramore) shows off the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship trophy at Royal County Down Golf's famous ninth hole. Picture by Pat Cashman

"Even through eight holes today, I was absolutely brilliant," he said of his mental attitude. "Okay, I hit a bad tee shot on nine but I was okay - one over through 13 is a good score. But I then started watching what the lads were doing and kind of got sucked into a little bit."

A bogey at the par-three 14th, where he was bunkered, was no great cause for panic. But when he cut his long iron tee shot into the right rough at the 468-yard 15th and then badly blocked his approach into deep gorse, things became deadly serious.

After hitting a provisional into the deep fairway bunker some 60 yards short of the green, he set off to search for his ball in the gorse.

Five fruitless minutes later it was declared lost, which meant his fifth from the bunker became critical.

Finding it close to the face of the deep, fringe-topped bunker, he could get only halfway to the green. But he then played a fine pitch to nine feet and coolly converted the slick, left to right putt for the sweetest triple bogey seven he's ever likely to make.

He made a fine par at the 16th, where he was again in the left rough off the tee.

But by this stage, nerves were getting to everyone. 

Gleeson had semi-duffed his tee shot into heavy rough there but found the front right greenside bunker in two and eventually saved par with one of his trademark putts to remain three behind.

Both men then opted not to hit driver at the 17th and carved their tee shots well right into the rough. 

 Robin Dawson (Tramore) pitching to the 18th green to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Robin Dawson (Tramore) pitching to the 18th green to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Both laid up but while Gleeson found the front edge, he three-putted for a costly six as Dawson got up and down for an excellent five and headed for the 550 yard 18th with a precious four-shot cushion 

"Three-shot lead, you never know," Dawson said. "Double bogeys are possible on that 18th. Alex makes birdie and it's all square. So with four shots, after hitting a good tee shot I could really enjoy it. I am nearly there.

"I know I shouldn't have, but I kind of got into a matchplay against the lads.  I was watching what they were doing too much, and kind of got sucked into that with a couple of holes to go. But I enjoyed that walk up the 18th."

With the wind coming into him off the left, Dawson aimed towards the gorse but while the wind barely moved his drive and it got a good kick towards the rough. From there he scuttled right into a fairway bunker, some 120 yards from the front edge but came up around 80 yards short of the pin with his third.

While Gough (with his Navan-born father on the bag), posted a 70 that included an eagle two at the fifth to set the clubhouse target at two-over 286, Dawson hit a lovely fourth to around six feet and rolled home his par putt to win by four, clenching his fist in triumph.

“I’m speechless really,” he said after a wire-to-wire win that was his first major victory since claiming the Irish Boys Amateur Open after a playoff in Lisburn five years ago.

“There have been a few sleepless nights the last couple of nights, and I am just relieved. That's the word.

“I have just been knocking on the door for so long. I have so many top tens in these championships, especially in match play. I have gotten to quarter-finals and semis and been beaten on the last. 

 Alex Fitzpatrick (England) reacts to a missed putt on the 18th green during the final day of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Alex Fitzpatrick (England) reacts to a missed putt on the 18th green during the final day of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down. Picture by Pat Cashman

“It was nice to do it over four rounds, especially at a venue like Royal County Down."

Dawson is now likely to move into world’s top 50, putting him in line for a place in the US Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach later this summer.

If he qualifies, he says he'll play — "100 percent" — but whatever about the rewards that come with his first big win,  such as a place in the GB&I team for the St Andrews Trophy, the win was positive affirmation that he really has got what it takes to exel in this game.

He was simply delighted to match his many friends — including fellow Irish Amateur Open winners like his swing coach Noel Fox and strength and conditioning coach Peter O'Keeffe — but also his peers, by tucking a major victory under his belt.

As for his back nine battle with Royal County Down and the nerves he felt on the eve of the final round, and coming down the stretch, he admitted it was a mental battle from the moment he posted with that stunning 65 in the first round.

“I was basically comfortable until I got out ahead of it on 15 and hit a wayward shot to the right," said the flame-haired giant of a young man, now very much coming of age. 

"But the last four holes, even if you have a ten-shot lead you are still not over the line. It is just such a brutal finish into that strong left to right wind.”

His putt for a triple bogey on the 15th was key but he was also pleased with his bogey after a wayward tee shot at the 17th and felt that once he got his drive away at the last, he was home and dry.

“I am good at gathering myself and getting going again,” he said. “From there on it was 'keep it in play'. 

“That seven I took at the 15th really brought me back down to earth.”

With that, he headed off to collect the trophy.

“It’s well overdue lads," he said with a grin. “Well overdue.”

Dawson wasn't the only player to emerge with great credit. Gough is clearly a big talent and Fitzpatrick has power, flair and personality to burn.

 Alex Gleeson (Castle) driving at the 11th tee during the final day of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Alex Gleeson (Castle) driving at the 11th tee during the final day of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down. Picture by Pat Cashman

He'll be a great asset to Wake Forest when he goes there in September and will be joined next year by Mark Power, who rallied to finish 22nd on 12 over after a closing 72.

Gleeson is already a championship winner and while he was disappointed with some aspects of his game at the finish, he's clearly moving to another level.

James Sugrue's tie for seventh was another bright spot and a boost for the South of Ireland champion from Mallow on what was a great day for Munster golf.

Flogas Irish Amateur Open, Royal County Down (Par 71) 

Final

Detailed scores

282 R Dawson (Tramore) 65 71 69 77;

286 J Gough (Eng) 71 72 73 70; A Gleeson (Castle) 68 74 73 71;

287 A Fitzpatrick (Eng) 68 70 73 76;

292 L Shepherd (Eng) 72 80 68 72; C Woollam (RSA) 71 72 76 73;

293 R Foley (Sui) 75 69 76 73; J Cope (Eng) 73 78 73 69; J Sugrue (Mallow) 72 76 71 74; K Reitan (Norway) 69 75 75 74; M Saulez (RSA) 69 74 77 73; A Wilson (Eng) 69 73 77 74;

294 D Howie (Sco) 75 73 76 70; B Hutchinson (Eng) 73 75 72 74; C Mansfield (RSA) 73 74 75 72; E McIntosh (Sco) 72 78 73 71; M Hammer (Ger) 72 71 76 75; T Nel (RSA) 71 80 72 71;

295 T Vahlenkamp (Ger) 74 75 72 74; S Easton (Sco) 74 70 79 72; N Bachem (Ger) 70 75 74 76;

296 T Plumb (Eng) 78 74 73 71; M Power (Kilkenny) 77 72 75 72; J McMahon (Eng) 75 74 74 73; G Bloor (Eng) 71 75 73 77; D Hague (Eng) 69 79 74 74;
297 O Huggins (Eng) 76 73 71 77; B Gill (Eng) 70 77 77 73;

298 A Flanagan (Eng) 75 73 75 75; T Clements (Eng) 74 76 68 80; J Yates (Naas) 73 78 72 75; F Hanisch (Ger) 73 75 73 77; M Mitchell (RSA) 72 74 77 75; C Strickland (Eng) 72 74 73 79; D Langley (Eng) 71 72 79 76;

299 M Waite (Eng) 75 79 71 74; B McKenzie (Eng) 74 75 73 77; R Brazill (Naas) 73 72 75 79; E Walker (Sco) 72 72 77 78; R Mullarney (Galway) 71 77 77 74; J Hapgood (Wal) 70 78 76 75; J Skov Olesen (Den) 69 78 78 74;  

300 S Watts (Cairndhu) 70 76 75 79;

301 D Germishuys (RSA) 75 73 75 78; B Chamberlain (Wal) 73 78 74 76; T Vaillant (Fra) 73 71 76 81; A Hill (Athenry) 71 75 76 79;

302 A McDougall (Sco) 78 73 73 78; Q Debove (Fra) 73 75 75 79; P Melching (Ned) 71 75 79 77;

303 A Laussot (Fra) 78 72 73 80; N Poppleton (Eng) 73 74 75 81;

304 J Schaper (RSA) 73 77 70 84;

307 C Lamprecht (RSA) 74 70 78 85;

312 D Brophy (Castleknock) 73 76 76 87.

Missed Cut

226 G Petrozzi (Eng) 78 75 73; L Abrial (Fra) 78 70 78; N Muller (Fra) 77 77 72; W Nienaber (RSA) 77 76 73; R Pierse (Grange) 76 76 74; S Locke (Sco) 76 76 74; A Maguire (Laytown & Bettystown) 74 74 78; C Barrow (Sco) 72 83 71; G Chevalier (Fra) 71 79 76; P Brennan (Belvoir Park) 71 77 78; G Collins (Rosslare) 70 78 78; C Thornton (Eng) 70 76 80; D Rauch (Ger) 69 80 77;

227 M Martin (Eng) 75 75 77; J Johnston (Sco) 75 72 80; R Williams (Eng) 73 73 81;

228 G Frimodt (Den) 81 75 72; J de Bruyn (Ger) 76 76 76; D Brown (Eng) 76 76 76; A Petit (Fra) 74 81 73; C Rafferty (Dundalk) 74 77 77; T Carter (Eng) 73 74 81; L Sanges (Wal) 72 78 78;

229 T McLarnon (Massereene) 78 74 77; M Ryan (New Ross) 77 74 78; H Goddard (Eng) 76 77 76; R Neergaard-Petersen (Den) 74 80 75; F Carr (Kirkistown Castle) 74 79 76; M Norton (Belvoir Park) 74 74 81; A Edwards-Hill (Eng) 74 74 81; J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little) 73 76 80; P O’Keeffe (Douglas) 71 75 83; 

230 J Gaunt (Eng) 78 70 82; R Williamson (Holywood) 75 81 74; A Grant (Dundalk) 75 75 80;

231 W Porter (Sco) 80 72 79; T Sloman (Eng) 79 78 74; R Moran (Castle) 76 73 82; B Jones (Eng) 75 75 81; C Farr (Eng) 75 75 81; B Anderson (The Royal Dublin) 74 81 76; K Cantley (Sco) 74 78 79; S Done (Eng) 74 76 81; C Denvir (Elm Park) 73 78 80;

232 H Foley (The Royal Dublin) 78 75 79; T Thurloway (Eng) 76 71 85; J Brady (Rosslare) 73 79 80; J Wilson (Sco) 71 80 81;

233 D McNeill (Sco) 82 83 68; C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 82 75 76; J Madden (Royal Portrush) 77 80 76; J Sundborg (Eng) 74 82 77; J Davies (Wal) 74 79 80;

234 M Lamb (Eng) 81 79 74; A Plumb (Eng) 76 81 77; J Mist (Eng) 74 81 79; 

235 J Paterson (Sco) 82 76 77; T Shin (Eng) 81 76 78; O Crooks (Bushfoot) 80 78 77; D Mary (Fra) 79 76 80; J Whelan (Newlands) 77 81 77; R Cannon (Balbriggan) 69 77 89; 

236 D Coghlan (Portmarnock) 79 85 72; 

237 K Egan (Carton House) 78 80 79;

238 E Smith (L;town & B’town) 80 81 77; P Mullins (Wal) 78 78 82;

239 D Kitt (Athenry) 80 78 81; R Black (Hilton Templepatrick) 79 83 77; R Dutton (Tandragee) 78 81 80; J Bolton (Eng) 77 82 80;

240 W Small (Tandragee) 81 84 75; J Fletcher (Warrenpoint) 79 82 79; D McAleenon (Edenmore) 76 86 78;

241 G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 75 81 85; 

242 R Knightly (Royal Dublin) 83 81 78; 

243 E Farrell (Ardee) 78 85 80;

245 M d’Harcourt (Fra) 86 85 74;

WD J Fox (Portmarnock) 71 72 WD;

NR P Coughlan (Castleknock) 77 81;

RTD M Jordan (Eng) 69 74 RTD;

WD J Pierse (Portmarnock) 73 WD; J Walsh (Castle) WD;

RTD J Glenn (Eng).