O'Donovan a cut above in remarkable comeback
Published 07/06/2011 | 05:00
Biblical parables were far from Richard O'Donovan's mind as he cradled the East of Ireland trophy after a stunning final-day victory charge that will live long in the memory.
But the old saying that "the last shall be first" rang true for the rangy 20-year-old from Lucan as he stormed from the cut line to the title yesterday.
Nine strokes off the lead overnight and seven adrift going into the final round, he eventually won by two strokes on two-under-par from Limerick's Pat Murray, Ballymena's Dermot McElroy and County Louth's Gareth Bohill as he followed a 71 in the morning with a stunning bogey-free 66 in the afternoon.
"Awestruck, it feels unbelievable," said a shocked O'Donovan after an anxious wait of more than two hours to see if he would be caught.
"Words can't express how I feel. I actually don't know. It just feels weird. I only made the cut and I am the winner. You just have to laugh at it. One flawless round did it.
"Is it the best round of my life? I suppose so, I've just won the East of Ireland! I'm going to cherish this for the rest of my life. It was a goal at the start of the season, and to see my name on top of the leaderboard afterwards is unbelievable."
The former Irish Boys international was roused from his bed in the clubhouse dormitory at 5.0 as he set off in the first group at 7.0, having made the cut for the leading 51 players on the seven-over-par limit.
Thoughts of victory were far from his mind as he opened with a double-bogey six to fall a seemingly insurmountable 11 strokes behind halfway leader Alan Dunbar, who eventually finished six shots behind him in a share of ninth.
After grinding his way to a 71 to trail Bohill by seven shots with a round to go, O'Donovan was still thinking of nothing more than a respectable finish when he suddenly found a new gear.
Armed with a new driver, last year's Leinster Youths champion began his second round of the day on the back nine like a man possessed and pummelled the fast-running links, and the rest of the field, into submission.
Forced to chip from the putting surface and then hole a seven-footer for par at the 10th, he birdied the 11th from seven feet before recording a purple patch of five successive threes that brought him birdies at the 13th (20-feet putt), 14th (12 feet) and 16th (18 feet).
He then holed a seven-footer for another birdie at the par-five 18th -- his only birdie four in his final round -- to turn in five-under-par 30.
His magical run didn't register over the walkie-talkies until he picked up his sixth birdie of the round with a 15-footer at the fourth to surge into a share of the lead on two-under par with Murray.
O'Donovan parred his way to the ninth, missing a seven-footer for birdie there that might have proved costly.
But, in the end, he ran out a comfortable winner as the temperature plummeted and the south wind blew hard.
Murray had just gone through the turn at two-under for the tournament after an outward nine of 32 that featured an eagle three, four birdies and a solitary bogey.
The 39-year-old Tipperary native was tied for the lead with clubhouse leader O'Donovan at that stage with local hope Bohill, 17-year-old McElroy and Headfort's Brian Casey just a stroke behind on one-under.
As Bohill and McElroy faded to closing rounds of 75 and 74 respectively, it fell to Murray to do the chasing.
But after starting the back nine with five straight pars to remain tied for the lead, the veteran Munster man three-putted from the front of the 15th for bogey to fall one behind.
Needing to play the last three holes in one-under to force a play-off, his challenge ended when he bunkered his approach left of the 17th and failed to get up and down for his par.