Teen Moynihan top of the class
NOTE to teacher: Gavin Moynihan may be a little late for school this morning, but he has one heck of an excuse.
Moynihan (17) a pencil-slim fifth year student at Malahide Community School, delivered a phenomenal, man-sized performance of which even Rory McIlroy would be proud to claim the most prestigious title in Irish amateur golf.
Defying banshee winds which howled in from the south-west at gusts of up to 40mph, Moynihan showed stunning maturity and composure at Royal Dublin yesterday as he etched his name on to the Irish Amateur Open trophy alongside those of Major champions Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen.
Moynihan emerged from a day for true heroes one shot ahead of burly Dutch international Robin Kind (20). He'd describe the battling rounds of 76 and 75 he posted yesterday as the best he'd ever ground out in such brutal conditions on the links.
Yet all of Moynihan's class could be seen in the shot of this gruelling 72-hole championship -- the 198-yard 3-wood he blazed through the teeth of the wind to just four feet to set up a sensational birdie at Royal Dublin's par four 17th.
He'd underscored his staggering potential at Copt Heath in England last month by becoming Ireland's first winner of the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy, a 72-hole boys' event which counts Lee Westwood and Justin Rose among its former champions.
Yet that one astonishing shot at 17 will be recalled for many a long year by those who witnessed it as the moment a talented young player showed the class, control and authority of a true champion. It was the moment he graduated as a golfer.
The tee had been pushed well up at 17 as the GUI trimmed some 250 yards off the holes playing into yesterday afternoon's wind. After a rare three-putt bogey five from 20 feet at 15, Moynihan was tied with Kind on seven-over as he played 17.
After hitting a "good tee-shot" into the gale, Moynihan chose that moment, standing over his ball on the fairway nearly 200 yards from the hole, to play the shot of his young life.
"It was an absolute bullet of a 3-wood up there to about five feet," he'd say. Moynihan polished off the tricky left-to-right birdie putt with remarkable aplomb, considering the wind howling in from his left.
All day he'd putted brilliantly, sinking a 10-foot par-saver at 17 and then holing another from 24 feet at 18 yesterday morning to take a one-stroke lead into the final 18 holes, so it came as no surprise when he said: "I've never had two putting rounds like that. For me, that was the key."
Kind dropped a shot at the last, meaning Moynihan could afford to bogey 18 and still win, though he didn't ask his caddie how he stood until he'd hit his 4-iron approach about 20 yards left of the green. The Portrane youngster got down comfortably in three to thrill his watching parents, Michael and Brid, and a host of fellow members from The Island. Moynihan paid credit to the famous North Dublin nursery for helping hone his short game in the year since he joined.
He's not the youngest player to win this title. Pedro Figuereido was just 16 when he lifted this title in 2008 and Moynihan seems likely to follow the Portuguese starlet onto the US collegiate circuit -- once he sits his Leaving Cert in 12 months' time.
The wind was so vicious yesterday, it shredded the Royal Dublin and Golfing Union flags on the yard arm outside the clubhouse and Moynihan reported that he hit drives ranging from 350 yards downwind to just 220 into the breeze -- "and I hit that one really well," he smiled.
Given the conditions, the performance of Brian Casey in posting the fourth-round 72 which gave him the early clubhouse lead on 10-over was quite remarkable.
Indeed, after opening with an 80, the Headfort man played the final 54 holes of this wind-ravaged championship in just two-over, clinching third place, one ahead of Holland's world No 7 Daan Huizing and impressive visitor Mike Miller from New York.
Moynihan is the third Irish winner of the title since the turn of the century, joining Noel Fox (2000 and 2003) and Alan Dunbar (2008).