England's Arron Edwards-Hill is dreaming of a return trip to Ireland for September's Home Internationals following his 2&1 victory over Irish international Peter O'Keeffe in the final of the North of Ireland Championship at Portstewart.
The 19-year-old from Chelmsford in Essex was three up through seven holes against the big Douglas man, who was running on empty after caddying for four rounds for his former foursomes partner Robin Dawson in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last week.
While the Corkman won the 16th to keep the match alive, he couldn't repeat the trick at the 17th and Edwards-Hill claimed the honours to turn some excellent form into silverware on the island where his English parents lived and worked for the first 10 years of his life.
"I obviously like it in Ireland," said the new champion, who was second in the West of Ireland and third at the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, both of them held at Co Sligo, earlier this season.
"I lived in Ireland until I was 10. I grew up in Wexford, outside New Ross. I played a lot of par-three courses there growing up.
"I've played really solid all year I had one bad event, The Amateur Championship. Other than that I haven't missed a cut. I've hardly been outside the top 20. I've been in the top five a lot. This win has definitely been coming."
He had just one scare but beat Cairndhu's Nicholas McClay at the 19th in the second round but was imperious after that, beating Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan (2 holes), Edenmore’s David McAleenon (6&5) and Mullingar’s Liam Grehan (5&4) to make the decider.
O'Keeffe beat defending champion, Ian Lynch in the second round and leading qualifier Robert Brazill 3&1 in the semifinals but after losing four of the first seven holes, he left himself too much to do against the Chelmsford man.
"I made a great up and down on the seventh," Edwards-Hill revealed. "As soon as I got to three up I said to myself, 'Keep making pars.' He had to do the work to make his birdies. That was the key really, par golf, especially in those conditions because it was really windy."
His goal now is to make the England side for the Home Internationals at Lahinch in September.
"I won the North of England Youths (U21) two years ago," he said. "This is my best win so far. I've been knocking on the door for a while. This is definitely my biggest result and hopefully I can kick on from here.”
By finishing runner-up, O'Keeffe makes a significant jump on the Bridgestone Order of Merit, moving inside the top 10. Although beaten in the semis, Robert Brazill is now inside the top three. Automatic selection for Ireland at the Home Internationals, 11 to 13 September at Lahinch, is the prize for the leading trio at the end of the Bridgestone series.
The North of Ireland was the seventh of 10 events in the Bridgestone Order of Merit. Next up is the South of Ireland at Lahinch (24-28 July). The AIG Irish Close at Ballybunion (3-8 August) is the penultimate tournament and the series concludes at the Mullingar Scratch Trophy (10-11 August).
Hole 1 - 427 Yards Par 4
Edwards -Hill wins the hole with a 4 to go 1up after drove behind whin bushes and had to take a penalty drop. Edwards-Hill 1 up
Hole 2 - 366 Yards Par 4
O'Keeffe wins with a four as Edwards-Hill finds heavy rough and can't find the green in three. All square
Hole 3 - 218 Yards Par 3
Edwards-Hill gets up and down for par but O'Keeffe can't match him from poor lie. Edwards-Hill 1 up
Hole 4 - 583 Yards Par 5
Hole halved in five. Edwards-Hill 1 up
Hole 5 - 461 Yards Par 4
Lost tee shot for O'Keeffe, whose ball is found after three minutes have elapsed. Edwards-Hill 2 up
Hole 6 - 143 Yards Par 3
Hole halved in pars. Edwards-Hill remains 2 up
Hole 7 - 516 Yards Par 5
O'Keeffe goes long with his second and can't get up and down. Edwards-Hill chip to 3 feet from 30 yards short. Edwards-Hill 3 up
Hole 8 - 445 Yards Par 4
Edwards-Hill can't make par after coming up short in two and O'Keeffe chips to 4 feet after big drive to bottom of hill. O'Keeffe back to 2 down
Hole 9 - 378 Yards Par 4
Edwards-Hill gets up and down from 30 yards for par as O'Keeffe misses from 5ft for the win. Edwards-Hill remains 2 up
Hole 10 - 407 Yards Par 4
O'Keeffe shaves cup from 30 feet. Hole halved in pars. Edwards-Hill remains 2 up
Hole 11 - 407 Yards Par 4
O'Keeffe makes 12 footer for par. Edwards-Hill chip to 3ft and makes it. Edwards-Hill remains 2 up
Hole 12 - 167 Yards Par 3
Halved in pars as O'Keeffe chips dead and Edwards-Hill missed from 30 ft. Edwards-Hill remains 2 up
Hole 13 - 555 Yards Pay 5
Halved in pars. Edwards-Hill remains two up
Hole 14 - 522 Yards Par 5
O'Keeffe goes through the back in two and misses a six-footer for birdie. Edwards-Hill makes his putt to go 3 up
Hole 15 - 198 Yards Par 3
O'Keeffe makes six footer for a half. Edwards-Hill remains 3 up
Hole 16 - 389 Yards Par 4
Birdie for O'Keeffe from 10 feet. Win the hole 2 down with 2 to play.
Hole 17 - 436 Yards Par 4
Edwards-Hill two putts from 30 feet but O'Keeffe's 30 footer for the win t putt misses on the right. Edwards-Hill wins 2&1.
Bridgestone Order of Merit - Top 10
1 Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) 430
2 Robert Brazill (Naas) 425
3 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 399
4 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 345
5 Keith Egan (Carton House) 290
6 Marc Boucher (Carton House) 282
7 Matthew McClean (Malone) 277
T8 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); Peter McKeever (Castle) 250; Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) 250
North of Ireland Amateur Open, Portstewart and Castlerock
P O'Keeffe (Douglas) bt R Brazill (Naas) 3&1; A Edwards-Hill (Chelmsford) bt L Grehan (Mullingar) 5&4.
Edwards-Hill bt O'Keeffe 2&1.