Mullarney masters Mullingar to land first 'major'
There's more than one way to skin a cat and Ronan Mullarney proved that precision can still trump power when he cruised to an impressive five-stroke victory in the Mullingar Electrical Scratch Trophy.
The 20-year-old Paddy Harrington Scholarship student from Salthill had a three-stroke lead heading into the final 36 holes at the James Braid gem.
And while he rarely took the aggressive route, his brilliant short game and precision putting helped him win with ease on 10-under par 278 from Hermitage international Rowan Lester and Portmarnock's Jack Pierse.
"I am not as long as these guys but I found a way to get it done," said Mullarney, a Connacht interprovincial for the past two years. "And I just love the place. Along with Portrush, it is one that just suits my eye off the tee and around the greens. I couldn't wait to get back here.
"I probably shouldn't be saying this but coming down the last couple of holes I was thinking that everyone who is anyone in Irish golf - McIlroy, Harrington, McGinley, Lowry - they have all won this. So there could be no better trophy to put your name on but alongside those lads on the Mullingar Scratch Cup.
"Hopefully now I can push now I have two events left this year, the Irish Youths in my home club, Galway Golf Club, and the Irish Close in Ballyliffin.
"I won the Senior Cup with Maynooth University last year but this is special. I am over the moon."
Three ahead of Pierse overnight, Mullarney dropped just one shot in a two-under-par 70 in the morning but saw his lead cut to two strokes over Mullingar's Liam Grehan and to three over another Mullingar man in Gareth Carr.
History proved too much for the home brigade, however, and in trying to become the first Mullingar victor in the event's 54-year history, Grehan followed his superb morning 67 with a 77 to end up seventh as Carr added an 82 to his 68 to end up tied 14th.
Mullarney, playing well within himself all weekend, relied on clever course management and a razor-sharp short game to close with a one-under 71 for his first major amateur win as an individual.
It wasn't all plain sailing as he made a double-bogey at the 13th to see his lead briefly cut to just three shots.
But he used his wedge play to get up and down for birdie fours at the 14th and 16th to restore his five-shot cushion before easing over the line with a facile, two-putt par at the last.
Mullarney's goal is to win an Irish cap and as he prepares to return to Maynooth for the third year of his degree in Business and Management, he believes that playing with great players has made all the difference.
Dreaming of one day playing on tour, he said: "Playing with those lads every day - the likes of Stuart Grehan, Robin Dawson, Sean Flanagan, Alan Lowry, Jordan Hood, Eugene Smith… Kevin LeBlanc is coming - that makes a huge difference to your game."