Holland hits overdrive to end Morgan's fairytale bid
Castle's Daniel Holland spoiled the fairytale ending for miracle man Des Morgan but no one could deny he was a worthy winner in the 50th anniversary staging of the prestigious Mullingar Scratch Trophy.
The 23-year-old from Castle went into the final round just a stroke behind home favourite Morgan, who had performed a minor miracle just to tee it up having undergone surgery to replace a faulty heart defibrillator 10 weeks ago.
The Dubliner won going away in the end, holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the final green for a superb 68 and a three-stroke win over Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan (70), Dundalk's Aaron Grant (68) and Warrenpoint's William Hanna (70) on eight-under-par 280.
With a Mullingar man yet to win the famous trophy, Morgan was left to wonder what might have been. But his regrets were fleeting.
Going for a hero shot from the trees at the 10th when he led by one and taking a double-bogey six proved a killer blow and the putts simply failed to drop after that.
Just two behind Holland with three holes to play, his title challenge ended when he failed to birdie the 16th and then bogeyed the penultimate hole after a weak chip, eventually carding a 73 to share fifth place with the fast-finishing Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon (67) of Balbriggan and Claremorris' Stephen Healy (70) on four-under.
"I'm not disappointed," Morgan said with a wistful smile. "I am just happy to be back playing golf after what happened 10 weeks ago. There are more important things than golf."
Holland, who helped Castle win their first All-Ireland Senior Cup in 99 years last season, picked up birdies at the 11th (30 feet) and 14th (two putts) before going to the 18th with a two-shot lead over clubhouse pacesetters Lenehan, Grant and Hanna.
"When I first came here and saw the pictures of all the great players who have won this trophy, I realised that it really was a prestigious event and that I'd love to have my photo up on that wall some day," said the winner after closing out the tournament in style. "I am a bit overwhelmed that mine is going to be up there as well. Winning the Senior Cup with Castle last year will still rank No 1, but this is a close second. It's an honour to win here."
Recently returned from six months working under former Walker Cup and European Tour star Eoghan O'Connell at the Fox Club in Florida, he paid tribute to his US hosts for helping him hone his game. But after claiming his first individual win, his final thoughts were for his home club.
"One of the things I learned from the guys in Castle was to be patient and I just made sure I kept plodding along," he said. "If the chances come along, great, and they did in the last round. And I was able to take a few of them."