Conor Purcell missed out on his country’s blue-riband amateur title as the Flogas Irish Amateur Open went to England’s James Newton — but Ireland’s highest-ranked player hopes his runner-up finish at Co Sligo impressed the watching Walker Cup selectors.
Newton left Rosses Point last night as the surprise champion, having come into the tournament placed at 2,710 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings before heading back to Macclesfield with the biggest victory of his career.
On a difficult final day at Co Sligo when only two players broke par, Newton, 24, managed to hang onto his five-stroke overnight lead with a fourth-round, three-over 74 to finish five clear of Portmarnock’s Purcell, who closed with a 72.
English duo Charlie Strickland and Arron Edwards-Hill shared third place on three-under-par, closing with a 73 and 74 respectively.
Purcell’s runner-up finish was the highest of the eight members of the extended Walker Cup squad named last month who were playing at Rosses Point, but the Australian Amateur champion is taking nothing for granted when it comes to making the final team to face the United States at Royal Liverpool this September.
“All you can do is put yourself in the mix,” Purcell said.
The Portmarnock golfer, who next represents his club in the AIG Barton Shield this week, moves into first place on the Golfing Union of Ireland’s Bridgestone Order of Merit having also returned from Co Sligo with a tie for second at the West Of Ireland Championship in April.
“For the two Irish events I’ve played, I’ve had two seconds, so couldn’t have asked for more,” Purcell, ranked 21st in the world, added.
He had applied plenty of pressure on Newton, who had shot a third-round 69 on Saturday to lead at 12-under-par. Big-hitting Newton had an early wobble, bogeying each of his first three holes as Purcell recovered strongly from an opening bogey to reach the turn at two-under for his final round, seven-under for the tournament, only for the Englishman to rally with three birdies to close out his front nine at even-par for the day, his five-shot lead restored.
Not even a bogey at the par-four 15th and triple at the next hole, a par three, could derail the unflappable Newton as he came home with back-to-back pars to claim the title and succeed the now-professional Robin Dawson as champion.
“I don’t show much emotion, to be honest,” Newton said, “That’s just the way I am.
“I knew that I could win. One of my goals was to win a 72-hole event. I need to go back and re-evaluate my goals now.
"It’s nice to have a win early on in the season and I know that I can do it again this year, so I just need to go and do it.”
Ronan Mullarney’s hopes of a first Connacht win in the national championship since Cecil Ewing in 1951 had begun perfectly on Thursday as the Galway club man recorded a course-record 62, but he was overtaken by Newton and a closing 78 left the 23-year-old Maynooth student alone in fifth place at level-par.
“I struggled today, but I would have taken this at the start of the week,” Mullarney said. “I’m a little disappointed after the start I had, but I suppose overall there are a few things I can take from this.”
Mullarney also has the comfort of knowing his home club Galway will be the next port of call for the Flogas Irish Amateur Open in 2020 and 2021.
Next best Irishmen in a group tied for seventh on two-over-par were Robert Moran of Castle, who carded a closing 75, and Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley, whose one-under-par 70 was the low round of the day, shared with Lisburn’s Aaron Marshall, who finished tied for 17th on five-over alongside Kilkenny’s Mark Power and Castletroy’s Andrew McCormack, who closed with a 74.