TJ Ford produced a brilliant display of golf through the bag to win to 119th South of Ireland Championship at a sun-kissed Lahinch.
The 24-year old, who works in golf marketing, made seven birdies in an impressive display to beat Dun Laoghaire’s Alan Fahy 5&4 to become the first man from County Sligo Golf Club to win the Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored Championship.
He had to dig deep to beat Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly at the 20th in the quarter-finals but he was a deserved winner as he followed a 2&1 win over Fortwilliam’s Hugh O’Hare in the semi-finals with a brilliant performance in the decider.
“I can’t believe it,” he said after knocking in a 10-footer on the 14th green for his third successive birdie to close out an emphatic win over the 23-year-old former Munster Strokeplay champion Fahy.
“I’m in shock to be honest. It was such an amazing week with the weather and everyone was so friendly. It’s unbelievable.
“I dreamt of winning from the very first hole so I had to quench those thoughts. Being from Rosses Point, the West was the championship that I always had putt to win on practice putting green but this is as good as it gets.”
Fahy beat Enniscorthy’s Paul Conroy 3&2 in his semi-final but his long game deteriorated in the final and he had to make a six-footer for a half in birdie at the ninth and a 25-footer for par at the 10th just to remain three down.
Ford three-putted the first to fall behind but won the second and fourth in birdies and the sixth with a conceded par to go two up before rolling in a seven-footer at the eighth to extend his lead to three holes.
Fahy had a chance to win the 11th with a par but three-putted and after driving into the Mine, he then lost the 12th when Ford hit six-iron from 230 yards to the front edge and two-putted for birdie to go four up.
Both men drove the 13th but Fahy’s 25-foot eagle putt lipped out and after they halved that in birdie, Ford closed out the match with a birdie at the 14th, rifling a 190-yard eight-iron to 10 feet before rolling in the putt.
“The first couple of drives are absolute wings and that just knocked my whole long game off and I lost a bit of confidence,” Fahy said. “I was putting well but I couldn’t hit a fairway at the right time. He won a few key holes that killed me off.”
Ford has no intentions of turning profession but with one championship under his belt, he’d dreaming of another.
“I’ve spent enough time with the lads who are playing on the mini tours at the moment and I know how good they are so I will keep going in the amateur game as long as I can,” he said of the professional game.
As for that dream of winning the West, which is scheduled for September, he added: “Getting the first one is the hardest but I know now that it can be reality. Hopefully now I’ll press on and see what happens.”