Sligo champion Anderson fulfils his 'West' dream
Sixty-seven years is a long time to wait for a home winner but County Sligo got its wish at last when Royal Dublin's Barry Anderson squeezed the life out of Jack Pierse and claimed the West of Ireland Championship in idyllic conditions at Rosses Point.
Born and bred just down the road from the course and member until this year, Anderson's 3&2 win in bright sunshine and near non-existent breezes was fully deserved after a disciplined exhibition of relentless ball-striking, rock-solid putting and cocoon-like concentration.
While Derbyshire-born Jimmy Feeney, a son of Rosses Point native Leo, won playing out of Chapel en le Frith in 1985, yesterday's win by Anderson was the first by a local since Cecil Ewing captured the last of his ten titles in 1950.
That he did it as a 26-year-old who works full-time in accountancy came as a shock to him after years of disappointments when he was a scholarship golfer with all the time in the world.
"I am shell-shocked," Anderson said after closing out the match on the 16th green in two-under-par figures. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd win this week. I thought other years when I was playing a lot more golf, I had a better chance. I was only teeing it up because I thought I would miss it if I didn't. I had zero expectations and now I have surpassed my wildest dreams."
Having come from three down after four holes to beat Newlands' Jake Whelan 5&3 in the morning semi-final, Anderson played the first four holes in one-under, found himself three up and vowed to give nothing away cheaply. As things turned out, Pierse's race was run in the first four holes so focused was Anderson on the job at hand.
Bidding to join his uncle Arthur (an onlooker yesterday) on the list of champions, Pierse bogeyed the first and fourth, failed to match Anderson's birdie at the second and allowed him off the hook with a half in par at the third.
"That start settled the nerves and gave me the cushion where I didn't have to attack the course," said Anderson.
While he opened the door at the ninth and escaped with a half in bogey, he bogeyed the 10th to see his lead cut to two holes but then holed a 35-footer down a tier for an unlikely birdie at the 12th, forcing Pierse to hole from 18 feet just to remain two down.
Denied on the greens, Pierse blasted a driver to within 70 yards of the 15th as he desperately sought the win that would get him to the tough 17th with a chance.
But Anderson stuck to his game-plan and hit a rescue into position, then fired a 153-yard nine-iron to six feet and after Pierse's umpteenth 20-footer slipped past, he sank the putt to go three up with three to play.
"I've dreamed of playing in this championship since I was 12 years old," Anderson said after lagging dead at the 16th to seal his dream win.