Carvill banishes South ghost

FIFTEEN years ago, Warrenpoint’s Jim Carvill travelled to Lahinch for his first South of Ireland Championship.

He has fond memories of his week, having reached the final only to lose 4&3 to Darren Clarke, a keen rival at the time. A few months later, he embarked on a professional career, but having accepted that life in the pro game was no longer for him, Carvill, now 38, rejoined the amateur ranks earlier this year, with amazing results.

He captured the East of Ireland Championship at Baltray in June and yesterday atoned for his defeat to Clarke all those years ago by beating fellow Ulsterman Darren Crowe in the South decider by 2&1.

The 17th green was further than he had been all week and he was more than a little emotional.

"1990 was the only year I played here and I always wanted to come back," he said.

"But I never believed it would happen. Darren beat me comfortably but I loved Lahinch and this was payback time for that disappointment. The first time I saw the photograph of the presentation was when I went into the clubhouse on Saturday.

"I look back on my 15 years as a professional and don't see them as a failure. Check my figures and you will see they were quite reasonable. But I just wasn't good enough. I went to final Tour School nine years out of 10 but I couldn't get my card.

"To succeed as a pro, you need a good swing, to putt well, have plenty of money, a good team behind you and a commitment to hard work. If you have weaknesses in any of these areas, you are wasting your time.

"From what I have seen this week, the young guys are technically very good but it will probably get tougher to make it in the pro game".

Carvill related how his experience as a boxer winning four Irish championships and six Ulster titles as a soccer player with Newry Town and a Down minor footballer, all hardened him to cope with the demands of golf.

Having suffered the trials and tribulations of the pro arena, he is now back in the Irish team but openly wondering if it's a scene of which he should be part.

"Given my age, perhaps they should be looking at younger men", he mused.

"I'll talk to Mark Gannon [the Irish captain] about it."

It would indeed be surprising if he wasn't pressed into service for the Home Internationals at Royal St Georges, Sandwich, in September.

He didn't get off to the best of starts in the final when, after punching his approach to six feet at the first, Crowe went in before him from three times the distance and Carvill missed for a half.

They were back to level pegging after the third. The fourth, the Klondyke, was halved in birdies and Carvill was on the march when he rattled in a 40- foot putt for a two at the fifth, otherwise known as the Dell.

The gap opened to two when he again found the target from 25 feet at the eighth but it was back to one when Crowe pitched to a yard for a winning birdie at the ninth.

Carvill was out in 33, three under, to 34 by Crowe and escaped with what he believed to have been a crucial half at the short 11th where he bunkered his tee shot only to sink a 20-foot putt for par.

The margin was two again when Crowe found sand off the tee at the 14th and after both men had played the 15th superbly for a half in fours, Crowe gave himself hope with a winning par at the short 16th, where Carvill was in sand off the tee.

And the Dunmurry redhead had reason to feel disappointed at the way it finished as his apparently pinpoint approach to the 17th instead ran through the green and he was unable to match his opponent's solid four.

Carvill was round in approximately three under to one under by Crowe.

Crowe's semi-final win over Limerick Golf Club secretary/manager Pat Murray meant there was little or no local interest in the decider, yet the attendance had reached respectable proportions long before the finish.

It was the first all-Ulster final since 1998, when Johnny Foster defeated Andrew McCormick by two holes, and prior to that was the Clarke-Carvill clash in 1990.

Carvill was always in control of his semi-final against 20 year-old Brian O'Connor from Hermitage.

He turned two up, went three ahead at the 13th and after losing the 15th where he was bunkered, finished it off in style with a 30-footer for a two at the 16th.

Semi-finals: D. Crowe (Dunmurry) bt P. Murray (Limerick) 1 hole; J. Carvill (Warrenpoint) bt B. O'Connor (Hermitage) 3&2.

Final: Carvill bt Crowe 2&1.

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