Moynihan rekindles Walker Cup hopes with gutsy finish
Irish Amateur Open
The Island's Gavin Moynihan re-established himself as one of the leading lights for September's Walker Cup when he stared down his teenage clubmate Kevin LeBlanc to win the Irish Amateur Open for the second time.
The 20-year-old Dubliner confessed that he came into the week desperate to show some the selectors some form after a slow start to the year and a missed the cut in the Lytham Trophy at the Walker Cup venue just eight days ago.
But in feeding off the memories of a brilliant record at Royal Dublin - he won the title as a 17-year-old in 2012 and forced a play-off in 2013 - the flame-haired star defied winds gusting up to 40mph and carded a 74 to win the title by three shots on four-under par 284 from Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin (72), another Walker Cup contender.
LeBlanc, who turned 17 just last Wednesday, pushed his club-mate right to the finish but took six at the 18th with a distracted four-putt from the fringe as Moynihan got up and down for a superb par to seal a victory that surely ensures his return to the Walker Cup side from September 12-13.
"Kevin will win this one day, no bother to him," a generous Moynihan said of his young rival, who ended up tied for third with Scotland's Ewen Ferguson (71) on level-par after a 78. "He was only 17 the other day and he's playing ahead of his years. Nothing fazes him and he could easily make the men's team for the Home Internationals this year, I have no doubt."
Tied for the lead with Moynihan on six-under par starting the day, four clear of the field, LeBlanc knew he was effectively locked in a match-play battle for the title.
But on a day of stiff southerly winds and high tension, he found himself one behind as Moynihan started birdie-birdie to go clear and he never looked back.
The gap was two when LeBlanc bogeyed the seventh and when both bogeyed the eighth and Moynihan saved a great bogey from 10ft at the 10th to remain two clear, it was always going to be a tough task playing against the wind on Royal Dublin's back nine.
LeBlanc bogeyed the first three holes coming home while Moynihan's bogeys at the 11th and 13th meant he still had a two-shot lead with five to play.
Neither could convert outside birdie chances at the 14th, 15th, 16th or 17th before Moynihan sealed victory with a gutsy par save at the last, where LeBlanc narrowly avoided the gorse on the right off the tee and came up short of the green in two.
"Once he wasn't on the green in two I was winging it left," a beaming Moynihan said of his decision to play safe on the 18th.
He eventually pitched to six feet from 67 yards and holed the putt for his par four and victory.
"I can't get over how happy I am," added Moynihan, who salvaged a brilliant 76 in the worst of the weather on Friday to stay in the tournament and then posted a course record 65 on Saturday.
"To get a win and hopefully secure my place on the Walker Cup team again now is a huge burden off my shoulders. Winning this title for the first time was wonderful but I think this one is that little bit more special because I came in here struggling a bit.
"I just couldn't wait to get back to Royal Dublin. I just felt it was the week that could kick-start my year and it has."