Campbell clutch putts seal East glory

Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell survived an early wobble in the final round and a late challenge from defending champion Paul Dunne to claim a two-shot victory in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at a rain-soaked County Louth.

Campbell clutch putts seal East glory

Chastened after losing his place in the Ulster interprovincial team last year, the 27-year old paid tribute to his uncle and caddie Paddy Gribben — the former European Amateur champion and Walker Cup player — as he built a four stroke lead with a third round 68, lost it by the fifth in the final round but then played superbly coming home to clinch his first “major”.

Despite a gutsy final challenge by Dunne, who closed with a 68 having lost his share of the lead with Campbell with a third round 76, Campbell holed a series of crucial putts around the turn and again late on the back nine to close with a 74 for six under par total of 282.

“That’s the icing on the cake, it is what I have always been working towards,” said a delighted Campbell. “To get one of these championships isn’t easy come by, there are a lot of great players out there.

“I had a poor year last year and I was determined to come back fighting this year.

“The aim was to get a championship under the belt and thankfully I was able to do it.

“I played really, really good all week and the putter kept my head abovewater as such. The hard winter paid off.”

Uncle Paddy looked almost as chuffed as his nephew as he headed for the clubhouse as yet another squall lashed the spectators at the 18th.

“I’ve watched him grow up and just to see that happening is fantastic,” Gribben said.

“I never won the East but that was as enjoyable as any win.”

Campbell’s morning 68 featured the second hole-in-one of the week at the 15th that put daylight between him and the field.

“It was a seven-iron from 168,” his caddie reported. “Never left the flag. That really spurred things.”

He was four clear of Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty and five ahead of Limerick’s Pat Murray with a round to go but the challenge from the two Munster men melted away in the afternoon rain showers.

Murray birdied the first two holes to get within three of the lead but then lost his rhythm and bogeyed the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth before a double bogey at the 10th ended his chances.

In the end he shot 76 to tie for fourth on one over with O’Flaherty, who never recovered from a double at the seventh when tied for the lead and shot 77.

West Waterford’s Gary Hurley closed with two 72s to take third on level par but Campbell was a deserving winner thanks to some clutch putting.

An early double bogey at the third and a bogey at the fifth left him tied for the lead with O’Flaherty on five under with Dunne just one behind.

But he was three clear when he holed a 15 footer for par at the ninth, extended his lead to four with a birdie from 10 feet at the 10th and then holed a 15 footer at the 11th to remain in control.

Dunne birdied the 12th and 17th to get back to four under but Campbell holed a 20 footer for par at the 16th and an eight footer for par at the 17th to go to the last two ahead.

“He doesn’t like to miss putts,” Dunne said of the putts on the 16th and 17th that all but ended his chances. “They were big. So congrats to Colm, he played great. He deserved to win today. He played better than I did.”

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