McDonagh holds nerve for hard-fought success in Scratch Trophy
A BATTLE of champions was needed before the 2010 Mullingar Grant Thornton Scratch Trophy ended up in the hands of Kelan McDonagh from Athlone at Mullingar Golf Club yesterday.
McDonagh, last year's Irish Youths champion, went head to head for the venerable trophy with Irish Close title holder Dara Lernihan of Castle as they pulled clear of the chasing field after the morning's third round.
They then battled each other all the way in the afternoon's 18 holes before McDonagh gouged out a par five on the last for 71 and a three-under-par total of 285.
Lernihan, victim of some self-inflicted wounds on the back nine, gamely tried to recover but ran out of steam to finish two adrift on 287. Last year' winner Conor Doran (Banbridge) shot 74, 71 yesterday for 292 to take third place.
Conor Glynn of Carton House came fourth on 294, with the next best Dessie Morgan of Mullingar and Rory McNamara (Headfort), each finishing with 295.
Mullingar's course clearly held its own against some of the best in the country, with strong, swirling winds, undulating greens and some tricky pin positions providing the defence for the parkland layout.
As it transpired, 20-year-old McDonagh, a Paddy Harrington scholarship student at Maynooth, had all the answers required.
A beaten finalist at the South of Ireland championship last month, he came to Mullingar "wanting to find a win from somewhere before the end of the summer".
"I didn't really have much expectations coming in here," he said. "I just ran with the flow, and kept plugging away. I knew there were birdies out there if you played consistent golf. Luckily it ran my way, so I'm very happy."
Lernihan had a point to prove after being overlooked by the Irish selectors for the Eisenhower Trophy team in favour of US-based Richard Phelan. The Castle man led the field through 54 holes, and at four-under-par 212 had a two-shot cushion over McDonagh going into the final round.
Milltown veteran Jody Fanagan reeled back the years with a super 69 yesterday morning. It proved to be the best score of the day, but fatigue caught up with Fanagan in the afternoon.
That left McDonagh and Lernihan out on their own. A bogey five by Lernihan on 10 brought them level, and the turning point arrived on the 165-yard par-three 12th. Lernihan bogeyed after hitting his tee shot into a bunker, and the Athlone player holed a 40-foot putt for a birdie two.
McDonagh retained his poise for the last six holes, while Lernihan's play became ragged as he tried to force birdies to close the gap.
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