Cutler keeps cool to complete high-class double
The old biblical adage that says that the good and the just are always rewarded rang true at Shannon as Portstewart's Paul Cutler bravely birdied two of his last three holes to win the first stroke-play staging of the Golfsure Irish Amateur Close Championship by two shots.
The 22-year-old Walker Cup prospect could have shot himself out of contention had he lost his patience and his cool in the third round, when he called a shot on himself and racked up a triple-bogey seven at the ninth.
The Ulsterman's ball moved as he tried to identify it in the trees and he immediately called an official over to inform him of the transgression.
He eventually carded a 77 to go into the final round tied for the lead with Castlerock's Aaron Kearney, Limerick's Pat Murray and Muskerry's Niall Gorey on three-over-par, with Rathmore's Wayne Telford and Forrest Little's Eoin Arthurs a further stroke adrift.
But he emerged victorious in the end, finishing birdie-par-birdie to card a closing one-under-par 71 for a two-stroke win over fellow Irish senior squad members Kearney and Murray. Cutler carded a two-over-par total of 290.
The first player to etch his name on the Close and West of Ireland trophies in the same year since Rory McIlroy in 2006, Cutler said: "'Irish Close champion' has a very nice ring to it.
"The change to the stroke-play format this year played into my hands a little more. Although I won the West of Ireland title at match play, I prefer stroke play.
"I know Rory McIlroy was the last to win the West and the Close in the same year and to have my name beside his on the two trophies has got a nice ring to it as well. I'm very happy."
Kearney edged a stroke in front with five holes to play when he birdied the 13th and Cutler bogeyed the short 12th.
But Kearney made a triple-bogey seven at the 14th to leave Cutler a shot in front of Murray, who birdied the 16th and 18th for a 73 that set the clubhouse target at a four-over 292.
Kearney almost bettered Murray's total, but after making birdie at the 16th he lipped out from eight feet for eagle at the 18th and carded a 73 to match the Limerick man's four-over-par total.
Cutler bogeyed the 15th to slip to four-over, but with the pressure mounting he hit a 130-yard nine-iron to five feet at the 16th and holed the birdie putt to edge in front.
Needing only a par-five at the downwind 18th for victory, he got up and down from just off the green for a closing birdie and a deserved triumph.