LIMERICK Golf Club’s Pat Murray fulfilled one of his lifetime golfing ambitions at Lahinch this Wednesday when landing the prestigious South of Ireland Championship.
Murray, who had lost seven times at the semi-final stage of the ‘South’ in the past, finally claimed the coveted ‘Major’ when getting the better of 22-year-old Stephen Healy, of Claremorris, by two holes in a nail-biting final.
Forty-one-year-old Murray, the secretary/manager of Limerick Golf Club, adds the ‘South’ to the Irish Close title he won at Enniscrone in 2009.
An experienced international, Murray arrived at Lahinch last weekend having helped Munster to claim the interprovincial title at Royal County Down.
Afterwards Murray described winning the South of Ireland as the ‘pinnacle’ of his career.
“This is the one I always wanted,” Pat Murray said.
“I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure year in and year out to try and qualify for the final. I’m delighted, thrilled. The support was phenomenal. It’s just relief, joy and tiredness.”
Murray’s hectic playing schedule through the inter-pro’s and ‘South’ meant he played 15 rounds of golf in eight days. As well as battling his way past many talented opponents to claim the ‘South’, Murray had to cope with a sore leg, having returned to playing golf in June, following an Achilles tendon injury he suffered at Christmas.
Murray broke his semi-final hoodoo when recording an impressive 3&1 victory over Ardee’s Eugene Smith on Wednesday morning.
In the final, Murray made a fast start against Healy, winning the opening two holes with a par and birdie. However, he lost the fourth, but chipped ‘dead’ at ‘The Dell’ to regain his two-hole advantage.
A resilient Healy hit back to be all square at the turn as Murray made two bogeys at seven and eight. However, Murray took a slim advantage again at the 12th, before the gritty Healy hit back to square the final at 14
Murray kept his composure on 16th to take a one-hole lead after his Mayo opponent found thick rough at the short hole. Healy missed a good chance to square the match once again a hole later but missed from two feet. Murray held a one hole advantage on the final hole and the title was his when Healy pulled his second shot out of bounds.
Murray became the first Limerick-based golfer to claim the ‘South’ title since his clubmate Cian McNamara prevailed over the famed Co Clare links in 2004 as an 18-year-old.