Ivan Morris: Matchplay – the most unpredictable form of golf

Ivan Morris: Matchplay – the most unpredictable form of golf

The Limerick Golf Club Fred Daly squad carried off what at one stage, appeared to be a most unlikely, if not 'impossible' win in a tremendously exciting and competitive, North Munster area final against the qualifiers from Clare, Dromoland GC at Adare Manor on Saturday last.

If ever there was a case for: It isn't over until it's over - this was it.

For those who have seen it all before, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven't been exposed to the vicissitudes of team match play golf, no explanation could suffice.

The lowest score wins but how it emerges can be far from mundane and quite mysterious at times. Man versus man match play in a team context is the most unpredictable form of golf of all.

In the top match, Ciaran Vaughan played the first nine holes in a steady one under par, highlighted by a magnificent birdie at the par-5, 9th when he overshot the green by 50-yards.

The pitch back was sublime and the subsequent birdie put him four up against Callum Spicer.

But there was plenty of fight in the Clareman and he birdied Nos. 12 and 13 to halve the deficit; a three putt on the 16th meant Limerick had only the slenderest advantage playing the last two holes, which were negotiated carefully and safely.

Then, the Bush Telegraph sent news to the front that both Luke O'Brien and Eoghan C. O'Neill (both Limerick) had lost comprehensively on the 14th green to Conor Meade and an impressive Brian Meaney respectively.

Meade played by far the best golf of the evening. His figures were worthy of being on show at Wentworth in the PGA Championship: 3,5,3 5,4,4,3,2,4,3,4,2,6,3.

Those two 2s were down to absolutely superb tee shots. This lad is a Cian McNamara look-alike in so many ways. He appears to have complete control of the pace of his swing, which is most unusual in one so young. I'll be interested to see how he performs in the various boys' championships this summer.

With two matches still in play, the Limerick boys were 1-up and 3-down with three to play in both matches but needed to win them both. Morgan Hanley (Limerick) played an excellent first nine holes in one under par to be 2-up.

His opponent, Ryan Foley made a mess of the 10th but it seemed to wake him up and he snapped into gear with a birdie two on the 12th and also won the 13th when the Limerick golfer was out of position on what can be a complicated hole.

In increasing tension the last five holes were halved.

You could write a book about the Ross Fitzgerald-Gordon O'Neill clash at No. 3 in the batting order. Without doing anything terribly wrong (no more than a couple of shots over par for the 18-holes), Fitzgerald found himself three down with three to go. Then everything changed.

O'Neill was in trouble off the tee and Fitzgerald capitalized by playing one of the toughest holes at Adare Manor in perfectly orthodox fashion.

A brilliant birdie putt from 25-feet on the 17th threw the whole result 'up in the air' facing the dangerous par 4, 18th hole where a good tee shot and staying short of the hole on the green is vital.

Again, Fitzgerald played the hole perfectly. O'Neill was strong with his second shot and was faced with a 'diabolical' downhill putt from 40-feet. It had 3-putts written all over it and so it transpired.

The 19th was halved in orthodox pars. It was Fitzgerald's turn to be in tree trouble off the 20th tee. He recovered well to be on the green 15-feet from the hole in three shots. Again, his opponent was fired up with adrenaline and his well-hit approach was too strong.

A difficult chip back ran across the green into a deep bunker but to his great credit, O'Neill recovered bravely and made his five for an unlikeliest of halves.

A terrific, attacking drive down the third fairway by Fitzgerald heaped the pressure on his opponent who blasted a fairway metal far to the right and out of bounds. Limerick 3; Dromoland 2.

The Munster semi-final and final is scheduled for Newcastlewest GC, Ardagh on August 6th.

Meanwhile at Dromoland, a well-balanced Castletroy side won the Area final of the Junior Foursomes with a handsome win over Ennis.

Jeff Hogan and Michael Kitt played a strong back nine, coming back from being 2-down at the turn to eventually win a topsy-turvy match by 1-hole.

Dara Neville and Niall O'Brien played relentless golf to steamroll their opposition and win by 8-holes.

The Munster semi-final and final of the Junior Foursomes will be held at Newcastlewest on August 6th. The draw has yet to be published by MBGUI.

Words of the Wise

When I talk to parents about encouraging their sons and daughters to play golf, I tell them that it is not all about taking aim at the pro tours and winning majors.

It's about exposing their children to a game that will teach them to be better people, whatever standard they reach. Golf is an individual game and you must learn to stand on your own feet.

When you are 12-13-14-years old and learning golf, you are improving life skills as much as anything else. You are learning about perseverance. - Keith Pelley, CEO, European Tour