CARLOW’S John Greene produced one of the great putting displays to etch his name in the history books by claiming the South of Ireland Amateur Open title with a 2 and 1 win over Athlone’s Kelan McDonagh at Lahinch.
The 24-year-old, a Masters student on a golf scholarship at UCD, was simply inspired on the greens as he holed putt after putt to become the first man from Carlow Golf Club to win a senior provincial title.
It was a mesmeric display from a player who was competing in only his second “South” and he was a worthy winner too, having destroyed Pat Murray’s dreams of glory with a merciless 5 and 4 semi-final win.
Murray has now fallen seven times in the penultimate hurdle but he had no complaints about his latest defeat as he produced his worst golf of the week by far to lose heavily.
“There’s no hard luck about it, I just played bad golf,” said the Limerick player, who was approximately three over par when he shook hands with the eventual champion on the 14th green. “But I’ll be back. I won’t give up just yet. It might take me 10 semifinals to get there but I don’t mind. I’ll come back as many times as it takes.”
If the gods frowned on Murray, they certainly smiled on Greene, who proved the truth of the old adage that a good putter is a match for anyone.
“They call me ‘Greener’ but the putter is now the Green Machine,” he said with a grin. “I holed everything I looked at. It’s a massive win for me.”
Introduced to esteemed local journalist Arthur Quinlan, who was covering his 75th “South” at the age of 89, Greene remembered that it was only his second visit to Co Clare for this classic championship.
“Kelan beat me 4 and 3 in the second round last year and I felt he had all the luck on his side that time,” Greene said. “Today it all went my way.”
McDonagh showed his fighting qualities when he came back from three down after 11 holes to beat Castletroy’s Cian Daly on the 20th in the other semi-final.
Putting was the key there too, with Daly lipping out with a two and a half footer for the match on the 18th before eventually falling to the Athlone player’s birdie four at the 20th.
“I second guessed myself on the line of the putt,” Daly said. “I hit it straight and it just move a little right. C’est la vie.” McDonagh had put Daly under immense pressure by nonchalantly holing an eight foot birdie putt at the 18th to keep his title hopes alive, but he missed everything that mattered in a sun-splashed final.
Slowly coming back to form after losing his way following his senior debut for Ireland in last year’s Home Internationals, McDonagh was ahead just once in the match.
That was at the very first hole, which he won with a par four. But he lost the second to a birdie four, took six at the third to go one down and watched Greene salvage a half in par with a 15 footer at The Dell to remain in arrears.
But that putt was only a taste of things to come. While he got back to all square with a winning par at the sixth, Greene’s putter suddenly got red hot at there was only going to be one winner.
The champion began his victory run by holing an 15 footer for a half at the seventh, an eight footer for a two at the eighth to go one up and a 10 footer for another birdie at the 10th to double his lead.
McDonagh took the 11th in par but took six at the 12th to go two down and then lost the 15th to an outrageous par, when he looked likely to win the hole.
Greene was forced to lay up after a hooked drive into deep rough. But McDonagh’s rescue club approach came up short of the green and he chipped weakly to 15 feet with his opponent 25 feet from the hole in three.
In classic matchplay fashion, Greene canned his par putt and McDonagh missed to go three down with three to play.
A bunkered approach saw the Carlow man lose the 16th to McDonagh’s rock solid par three but it all ended at the next and this time, the winner could afford to take three putts from fully 70 feet for victory.
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