Saturday 18 August 2018

Cannon now sets his sights on Ireland return after gutsy victory in Close

Robbie Cannon shows off his trophy for winning the Irish Amateur Close at The European Club. Photo: Pat Cashman
Robbie Cannon shows off his trophy for winning the Irish Amateur Close at The European Club. Photo: Pat Cashman

Brian Keogh

Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon took a giant step towards a return to the Irish team and inched closer to the career Grand Slam when he claimed the AIG Irish Amateur Close in emphatic style at The European Club.

The 39-year-old beat Killiney and Wentworth's Eoin Leonard 2&1 after coming back from two down with five to play to beat Castle's Alex Gleeson by two holes in the semi-finals.

It was a gutsy performance from the popular strength and conditioning coach, who was congratulated from St Louis by pal Shane Lowry, who was following the scoring as he played a practice round.

"Very, very happy," a delighted Cannon said after his win over 21-year-old Leonard, who beat Portmarnock's Conor Purcell 2&1 to reach the final. "I even wrote down in my diary last night that I was going to win, I just had a really good feeling."

Winner of the South in 2009 and the Irish Amateur Open in 2013, he now needs the North, West and East to win all six "majors" but believes it's possible.

The key for Cannon wasn't just his putting in the final - vastly improved by Balbriggan professional Nigel Howley - but his incredible comeback against Gleeson.

Two down with five to play, he left his first bunker shot at the 14th in the sand but holed his second attempt for a half with bogey and never looked back.

"When I holed that I knew the title was going to be mine," he said. "I felt like it was destiny."

He won the last four holes to claim the match with two stellar four irons, at the 15th and 18th, bringing back memories of his sessions with the late Laytown and Bettystown coach Bobby Browne.

As for the final, key putts early on kept him on terms and when he birdied the seventh from 15 feet and parred the 10th to go two up, he was always favourite.

Leonard won the 11th to cut the gap but conceded the short 14th after missing the green and while Cannon won the 15th in par to go three up only to three-putt the next, he closed out the match with a regulation par at the 17th.

His dream is to tee it up for Ireland again after being snubbed in 2013 when he won the Irish Amateur Open.

"That was probably the hardest pill I've ever had to swallow," he said. "I was gutted because I'm such a passionate Irishman and it would mean the world to play for Ireland again."

Irish Independent

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