Colm Campbell (Irish Golf Desk photo)
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell proved there really is life after 30 in the amateur game when he holed two clutch par putts on the 17th and 18th to force a playoff with Malone’s Matthew McClean before capturing his second Flogas Irish Amateur Open title at the first extra hole.
The vastly experience international (35), who was champion at Royal Dublin in 2016 but is now very much a part-time golfer, had low expectations starting the week at The Island, which proved a magnificent test.
But after following rounds of 73 and 75 with a three-under 69 on Saturday to go into the final round just a shot behind Castle’s Robert Moran on 1-over par, he found his putting touch to deny McClean and add a second Irish Strokeplay crown to wins in the East of Ireland and Ulster Strokeplay.
“It’s a little bit different than 2016,” said Campbell, who made a 10-footer at the 17th and a 12 footer for another par at the 18th for a level par 72 to tie with McClean on one-over 289.
“Obviously I was playing a full-time schedule back then, so my expectations were little bit lower. But I knew I was playing well enough and as I said last night, I wasn’t here to make up the numbers.
“It was just a matter of making a few putts and I holed a couple of nice ones early on and then the putter went dry. But I holed a couple of key putts there on 17 and 18 which helped things.”
Campbell, who is now a golf rep for PING, found himself in front when overnight leader Moran found an unplayable lie after a poor second and double-bogeyed the third en route to a 75 and third place on three-over.
The other member of the final threesome, Carton House’s Marc Boucher, remained in the hunt all day but ultimately paid for one too many poor drives and also shot 75 to finish a shot further back in fourth.
Playing in the penultimate group with Ballybogey and Stranorlar’s Ryan Griffin (78, T6) and The Island’s Joseph Hanney (78,T12), McClean followed a bogey at the fourth with birdies at the fifth, sixth and ninth to tie for the lead with Campbell and Moran on one-over.
He then eagled the 10th and birdied the 13th to go three clear on two-under.
But Campbell did not panic, and found himself level when McClean failed to take advantage of some luck on the par-five 15th.
Buried in the right rough, he found his ball behind a bush and hacked back to the fairway but then turned what should have been six at worst into a double-bogey seven by taking four to get down from short of the green for a double-bogey seven.
The Malone man thinned his fourth over the green and three putted from long range for a seven.
He had a chance for a two at the 16th but missed, then bunkered his tee shot at the 17th and bogeyed to fall back to one-over alongside Campbell, who narrowly failed to birdie the 15th before watching an eight-foot birdie effort lip out at the 16th.
As McClean got up and down brilliantly for par at the last, almost holing his pitch from a tough lie left of the green, Campbell showed why he was such a rock for Ireland in four successive Home Internationals wins from 2014 to 2017.
Short of the 17th in two, he pitched 10 feet past but drained the putt, then followed that clutch par save with another from 12 feet at the last to shoot 72 to McClean's 70 to tie on one-over 289.
On their return to the 18th in sudden-death, McClean had to take a penalty drop after driving into deep stuff on the hill, then bunkered his third front right and failed with a 15 footer for bogey as Campbell, erring well left to take double out of the equation, pitched to 25 feet to set up a winning two-putt bogey.
"There might be a few pints in Warrenpoint tonight, but I have to go to work tomorrow morning and then play a Barton Shield match tomorrow night," joked Campbell. "But I'm delighted to get over the line, so there's still a little bit of golf left in there yet. I am a happy man.”
As for his tactics down the stretch, he said: “It’s a tough finishing stretch even with a short par-four (14th) and short par five (15th) so it was matter of just staying patient and giving myself chances.
“I don’t know how that putt didn’t go in on 16 but I got a little bit of justice on 17 and 18 and holed two putts when it mattered.”
He ranks this win as “probably a bigger achievement” than 2016 given he underwent hand surgery on his Hook of Hamate in 2018 and lost out on the chance of a Walker Cup call up.
He returned to the International team in 2019 and while Covid was another blow and he played very little last year, he is now a married man with a job and a two-year-old girl.
“Life has changed little bit for me,” he said. “This is probably up there with anything I’ve done so far. After the hand injury, I got back into the Home International team and picked up a win in the Ulster Strokeplay. But things have worked out for the best now and I’m very happy and content.
“It is nice to know that when I turn up I can still compete with the rest of the lads and I had a great three-ball with Marc Boucher and Robert Moran which made things a lot easier. We were all encouraging each other despite everybody trying to win so I was really happy with that.”
He has no plans to play anything but a domestic schedule this year but is now well placed to bid for a place in the Home International team via the Bridgestone Tour.
“This gives me a chance,” he said of Ballyliffin. “They know what I can do whenever it’s put to the test and I’ve got that experience as well. Who knows? I will not turn it down.”
West of Ireland winner Alan Fahy from Bray was fifth on five over with Roganstown teenager Sean Keeling an excellent tied sixth on seven-over after a 71.
by Brian Keogh, Irish Golf Desk
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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