Tuesday 21 November 2017

Selfridge seizes day after long night

Brian Keogh in Portrush

Chris Selfridge overcame a sleepless night and a tummy full of butterflies to give Moyola Park its first championship winner thanks to a dramatic, two-stroke victory in the Golfsure-sponsored Irish Amateur Close at a sun-kissed Royal Portrush.

The 20-year-old University of Toledo scholarship student from Derry won in wire-to-wire fashion, but it was a nerve-jangling affair that went right to the death.

"I'm delighted," said Selfridge, who shot a 75 to finish two clear of Mourne's Reeve Whitson and West Waterford's Gary Hurley on five-under-par. "The longest I slept last night was an hour, I was tossing and turning so much.

"I had never ever lost a lead in a tournament, but I had a six-shot lead at one stage and threw it away. But I clawed my way over the line.

"Two years ago I didn't have a coach. I was a weak scratch handicapper, barely in the Irish Boys team and I went to Johnny Foster at Greenacres Golf Centre in Ballyclare and he just completely changed me."

While he extended a three-stoke overnight lead to four over Whitson on eight-under-par thanks to a third-round 70, Selfridge was made to sweat on a sweltering day of easterly breezes.

Six shots clear after six holes, the 6' 2" Derry man saw his lead cut to one over Whitson when he double-bogeyed the seventh and bogeyed the eighth. And while he moved clear again with birdie fours at the ninth and 10th, he bogeyed the 12th, 15th and 16th to find himself just one ahead coming down the stretch.

Whitson parred the par-five 17th to remain one behind on four-under, but his playing partner Hurley barged is way into a share of second with a sensational birdie.

In bushes left off the tee, the Munster man hacked out and then hit a 300-yard three-wood to 15 feet -- "the best three-wood of my life" -- and sank the putt to join Whitson on four-under.

Selfridge was on the 17th in two, but three-putted for par, missing a three-footer that would have given him a two-shot lead heading down the 484-yard 18th.

He needed a par to win, but got a helping hand as Whitson missed the green left and bogeyed for a 73 and Hurley followed suit, three-putting from long range for a 70 as they ended on three-under.

Faced with a 217-yard approach to the 18th, Selfridge came up short of the greenside trap on the right with his three-iron.

But he hit a pitch with a lob wedge that matched the colour of his shirt -- peach.

It finished just 12 inches away and he tapped in for a win that will surely secure the former boys' international his place in the Irish senior side for August's Home Internationals at Glasgow Gailes.

Ardee's Eugene Smith (20) claimed an impressive fourth place on level-par 288, but pre-tournament favourite Alan Dunbar, battling flu all week, withdrew after a third-round 80 ended his hopes.

Irish Independent

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