Desmond joins big league to claim South of Ireland glory
Monkstown's Seán Desmond proved he can do battle with the best when he beat Carton House's Keith Egan by one hole and claimed a dream victory in the Pierse Motors VW-sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Lahinch.
The UCC student (21) beat internationals Conor Purcell and Tiarnan McLarnon along the way and then edged out 2016 North of Ireland champion Seán Flanagan with a closing birdie in the semi-finals en route to becoming the first Monkstown man to win a 'major' since Tom Egan claimed the East of Ireland in 1962.
"It's only my third South of Ireland and to win, it's pretty cool," said Desmond, who was two down after three holes and one down after eight but refused to go away. "To be honest, I didn't think I was at a level yet where I could win a championship. So to rock up here and win is pretty unbelievable.
"It gives me a massive boost of confidence. I beat top-quality, world-class players, it just backs up what I am doing to try and achieve my goal of getting to the top of the amateur game."
Egan (26) had been superb all season, beating internationals Mark Power and John Murphy on his way to the semi-finals where he cruised to a 5&3 win over Newlands' Jake Whelan.
He's now third in the Bridgestone Order of Merit which guarantees the top three a return trip to Lahinch for the Home Internationals and he may well clinch the green jersey his season deserves when he reappears for the final-counting Mullingar Scratch Trophy.
He will be disappointed not to walk away the winner yesterday and he can blame a cold putter for his defeat.
Two up after wins in par at the first and third, he played the first four holes in two-under par before the birdies fatally dried up. After pulled iron shots cost him the sixth and seventh, he won the eighth in par when Desmond bunkered his tee-shot but could never shake off the gritty Cork man.
Desmond won the 10th in par, got up and down brilliantly for a half at the short 11th and then edged ahead for the first time by making a slippery 15-footer at the 13th.
Egan had a chance to match him from half that distance and while he also shaved the hole at the 14th and hit the pin with a bunker shot to halve the 15th, he couldn't take his chances.
Desmond opened the door when he missed a two-footer for par at the 16th to leave them all square again. But the champion slotted home a clutch eight-footer for par at the 17th and watched Egan, putting on an identical line, leave his seven-footer short in the jaws.
Now one down, Egan drove into sand at the 564-yard 18th and missed from 15 feet for birdie, leaving Desmond two putts from 10 feet for the title.
In the Senior Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, Darren Clarke finished tied 10th, six strokes behind Germany's Bernhard Langer with Paul McGinley joint 46th on seven-over after a 73.
The Dungannon man, who was bidding to become just the fourth player to complete the double of The Open and the Senior Open, eagled the seventh to move to within two of the lead.
But he double-bogeyed the 12th and shot 71 to finish on level-par as Langer (61) stormed through the field, notching six birdies in his first 14 holes in a four-under 66 to win an 11th senior Major by two shots from overnight leader Paul Broadhurst on six-under-par. Playing in his last Senior Open, Tom Watson (69) tied for 64th on nine-over after a 73.
On the Symetra Tour, Leona Maguire closed with a four-under 67 to secure a top-20 finish on seven-under in the CDPH Open in Albany in New York.