Irish Amateur Open winner Peter O'Keeffe
(Photo Courtesy of Cashman Photography)
NEWCASTLE, Ireland (May 14, 2017) - Peter O'Keeffe sealed a memorable victory with a composed final round performance at Royal County Down to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship.
Holding a one-stroke lead going into the final round, O'Keeffe held sway by three thanks to a closing 73. His only wobble came at the 15th, when an uncharacteristic four-putt cost him a double bogey.
At that stage, O'Keeffe had put himself in a commanding position. Walking onto the 16th tee, the 35-year-old was still three shots to the good. A par-bogey finish was good enough to clinch the title.
"In general, all week I loved the place," said O'Keeffe. "When I got here first, I knew I was comfortable here. I had the pace of the greens so everything kind of slotted into place at the right time."
O'Keeffe has been through the professional game and back, only recently returning to the non-paid ranks. In six attempts at the European Tour's Qualifying School, he made final stage twice. Playing golf would not be his career but he was not prepared to leave the game behind.
"It wasn't a case of retiring," O'Keeffe insisted. "My problem was I never had the financial structure that allowed me to plan a professional career. I still believe that I have a good game to bring me to a certain level. It's just nice to get a title like this to reaffirm that."
To get there, he had to dig a little deeper than it appeared. As he plotted his way around -- swinging freely, picking his shots with ease -- it almost seemed effortless. From his opening birdie, where he two-putted the par-five, the title was never out of his grasp.
"Yes I felt pressure," O'Keeffe said with sincerity. "Whether you show it or not -- you do get flustered at times, and a more experienced person can be aware of that and say, 'Let's just settle it again'."
Standing over an eight-footer for bogey at 13, the tension intensified for O'Keeffe. However, the field were drifting and at various stages his lead was three, four and five shots. The toughest hole was still to come though, and at 15, there came a real moment of crisis.
His putting had been sublime to that point. Now his touch deserted him, leading to four strokes on the green and a double bogey. Such numbers are not uncommon at Royal County Down. For O'Keeffe, it was only his second double of the tournament.
"I lost concentration," he said. "I was disappointed but I was fine."
And a par at the next proved as much. He negotiated the penultimate hole in regulation as well, leaving him with a four-shot cushion coming down 18.
"It feels fantastic. Like, it was tough to keep my emotions in check there going up the last," said the new champion. "It was nice to have a few shots to lean on. It hasn't sunk in yet but I am absolutely delighted."
His playing partner, Scotland's Christopher MacLean, started the day as he began and shared second place with England's Tom Sloman, three shy of the winner. Castle's Alex Gleeson was the next best home player, finishing tied for 10th after a 73 -- double bogey at the last cost him a place in the top three.
Scottish pair Connor Syme and Craig Howie were best of the Walker Cup panelists in the field, tied for 7th on seven over. Defending champion Colm Campbell closed with 73 for a share of 30th. Belvoir Park's Marc Norton, who began just two behind, fell away, shooting 83. Kilkenny teenager Mark Power made most headway on the final day, climbing 30 places thanks to an impressive 71 to share 16th place with Tramore's Robin Dawson. Naas international Conor O'Rourke was one shot better after a 71.
ABOUT THE Irish Amateur Open
First played in 1892 and held every year with
exception of the War Years up to 1959, and
revived in 1995, the Irish Amateur Open can
a strong history of producing great Champions
including Joe Carr (three times), Jimmy
Tom Craddock, Padraig Harrington, Michael
Noel Fox, Louis Oosthuizen and Pedro
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