Grant targets Ireland cap after triumph in Mullingar
Knock's Nicky Grant hopes to achieve his dream of winning a senior cap for Ireland after cruising to an emphatic win in the Mullingar Grant Thornton Scratch Cup.
The 24-year-old closed with a brace of three-under-par 69s on the final day to finish on six-under-par 282, five strokes clear of Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith (74) and six ahead of Walker Cup star Paul Cutler (75) and Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan (70).
A member of the Irish panel in 2006, the Belfast retail manager was one of two players handed a six-month ban by the Golf Union of Ireland for disciplinary reasons after some high jinks on an away trip with an Irish selection and has yet to return to the fold.
But after following in the footsteps of Major winners Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy with victory in Mullingar, he still hopes he can pull on a green jersey before he takes the plunge into the paid ranks at the end of next season.
"This is a wonderful tournament to win with such a great list of past winners and hopefully now I can get into the Irish panel again, which is something I have been trying to do for the last three or four years," he said.
"I was fourth in the Order of Merit two years ago and didn't make it so it would be a huge thrill to get an Irish cap before turning professional."
Two shots behind leaders Galbraith and Cutler at halfway, Grant defied squally conditions to shoot a morning 69 and grab a share of the lead with his fellow Ulstermen on three-under with a round to play, before easing to an impressive victory.
In the final round, he birdied the fourth and seventh to turn three strokes clear of Galbraith on five-under as Cutler followed a double-bogey at the fifth with bogeys at the seventh and eighth to slip six shots behind.
Despite a bogey at the 10th, where he pushed his tee shot into trouble, Grant extended his lead to six shots over Galbraith with three birdies in five holes as he rolled home 20-footers for birdie at the 12th and 13th before two-putting the par-five 16th to get to seven-under.
Although he bogeyed the 17th after a pulled tee shot, he calmly two-putted the par-five 18th to clinch his fist major victory since he beat European Tour star Oliver Fisher to claim the prestigious Faldo Junior Series in 2003.
Rathmore's Alan Dunbar, who will join Cutler in the Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen in two weeks, finished tied for 12th on eight-over after rounds of 75 and 72 yesterday.