Limerick Golf Club may have their own battles ahead in the AIG Senior Cup today at Carton House but one of their sons left Kildare yesterday with an All Ireland winners’ medal following Ballybunion’s AIG Junior Cup victory.
Brian Slattery was the Kerry club’s hero in their win over Leinster champions Grange as the Munster pennant holders edged to a second Junior Cup title in five years with a nail-biting 3-2 victory.
Limerick-born to Kerry parents, the 37-year-old learned the game at the Ballyclough club before grabbing the opportunity to join Ballybunion and the gratitude was reciprocated as Slattery came from three down after eight holes to drain the winning putt from 100 feet at the 17th to secure a remarkable singles victory over Grange’s Jack Ward.
His win broke the deadlock after big wins for Grange’s Kevin O’Meara and Graham McDonnell were cancelled out by points from Frank Geary Jr and Adrian Walsh.
The heroics followed on from Wednesday’s semi-final win over Loughrea, when Walsh had helped booked their final place at the 20th hole and Slattery was eager to share the glory.
“It’s fantastic, it’s a panel sport,” Slattery said. “Young James O’Callaghan (aged 14) would have been in the team up to last Thursday but went over on his leg in PE; he had played all the matches, won the Munster final and everything, but was out for this week unfortunately.
“Adrian stepped in and delivered twice (in the semi-final) on Wednesday and today in the final delivered in spades. I know I was down early but got a bit lucky, a couple of putts went in and Jack (Ward) had a couple of unlucky lip-outs. I suppose it is just the nature of things, when they are going your way, they’re going your way.
“Thankfully it went my way today. I won nine, good putt, 10, I made par and Jack was unlucky there, I won 13, 14 and 16 to go two up. There was a bit of messing there on 17, I hit his caddy car, his not mine thankfully. We had found a couple of golf balls and then Barry, one of our supporters, found a Titleist 4. I’ve had a lot of practice hitting out of heavy rough in Ballybunion, so I got it out.”
As for the long putt, Slattery said: “By the time tomorrow comes around, it’ll be 60 or 70 yards.
“Get it close,” was his objective, “Make him putt, I know he was nearly in gimme range; in these kind of matches, unfortunately, you have to make them lads putt, make them hole them. I have no doubt he would have got it, he putted lovely all day.
“The boys behind were roaring that it was in the hole. It went in, here we are.”
Slattery, Walsh and team-mate Ronan Cross had helped Ballybunion win the Jimmy Bruen Shield at the same course in 2015 while Geary helped his club lift the Junior Cup at Royal Tara in 2013.
“We had an experienced team, when we had to go to the well, the boys knew how to do it, they’re experienced match players.”
Ballybunion manager Brendan Daly admitted to having his doubts about his team’s ability to dig themselves out of a hole.
“It was looking dodgy at the start all right, because Grange have some fantastic golfers. But I have faith in the players, they have dug deep before and they dug deep again today. Brian is always very dependable, a surviving member from the Jimmy Bruen team two years ago and one of the most improved players. And he knows this place very well.”
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