Birthday girl Sarah Helly grabs Irish Close win

Enniscrone’s Sarah Helly gave herself an unforgettable 23rd birthday present when she shocked hot favourite Olivia Mehaffey by six and five to claim the Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship over the Old Tom Morris Links at stunning Rosapenna.

Birthday girl Sarah Helly grabs Irish Close win

Played in sparking sunshine at the spectacular Donegal resort on Sheephaven Bay, the final-year student at Marshall University in the US beat title holder Mary Doyle from The Heath two and one in her semi-final, as Royal County Down Ladies’ star Mehaffey saw off Howth’s Laura Doherty by the same score in the other semi-final.

Mehaffey, who joins the Great Britain and Ireland squad today for the Vagliano Trophy at Malone, was gunning for her fourth win over the year, following victories in the Irish Girls, Scottish Ladies and Welsh Ladies Strokeplay championships that have taken her to 59th in the world.

While she denied the Enniscrone talent the Leitrim Cup for the leading qualifier on countback, she never got going against the in-form Helly, who now looks set to win her first Irish senior cap in September’s Home Internationals at Royal Wimbledon.

Having won the first and lost the second in par figures, Helly edged ahead with a two-putt birdie four at the sixth, before grabbing three holes in a row, with pars at the eighth and ninth and a birdie from 30 feet at the 10th putting her four up.

Mehaffey conceded the 12th to go five down, before Helly zipped a low spinning sand wedge to three feet at the 13th and holed the putt for an emotional, six and five win.

With her parents John and Bernie missing the decider due to medical appointments, she said: “They would have given anything to be here, but mum had a check-up in Dublin and dad was in Galway for a small procedure.

“The golf was a bit nervy at the start and, after playing seven rounds to get this far, we made some mental errors. I am still in shock and can’t get over the fact that I am Irish champion.

“I have always wanted an Irish Close, but I didn’t think I would ever do it, but I knew this year I was playing well and, if I didn’t do it this year, I might not ever do it. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better birthday present, to be honest.”

Meanwhile, the GUI has named its strongest possible squad for the International European Amateur Championship at the Penati Golf Resort in Slovakia on August 5-8.

Six players have been chosen to represent the Golfing Union of Ireland for one of the most prestigious stroke play events of the season. The squad nominated is:

Paul Dunne (Greystones), Jack Hume (Naas), Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Gavin Moynihan (The Island), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) The players will be accompanied by the Irish Team Captain, Tony Goode (Lucan).

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