Limerick GC's Tim Rice
In a stunning weekend stacked with overflowing success for Limerick golf, pride of place goes to Tim Rice (Limerick Golf Club) who put aside a decade of cruel disappointments to win the prestigious Irish Professional Golf Championship at Moyvalley in County Kildare.
It's hard to believe that Tim left all of the top pros in Irish domestic golf trailing in his wake coupled with the fact that Tim is so popular amongst the golfers he defeated. For his dedication and perseverance, Tim is highly respected by his colleagues.
A winning score of 17-under par for the 72-holes gave Tim the winners cheque of €3000 and a decisive four stroke margin over the runner up Colm Moriarty (Athlone) and all of eleven strokes to spare over Damian McGrane in third place.
It could all have gone horribly wrong on the last hole when after playing a 'safe' 3-iron from the tee to be sure of finding the fairway, Tim's 'weakness' of not being able to resist temptation reared its head and he 'went for' the par-5 green, over water, with a fairway metal second shot, failing disastrously.
Moriarty, three behind at the time, saw a slim chance and tried to do the same but he also found the water and his hopes were drowned beyond recovery. Tim scrambled an ugly six but Moriarty ran up an even uglier seven.
Not the way to finish a championship that Rice had completely dominated from day one but it did not matter.
Rice's rounds of 66, 67, 68 and 70 mean his name can be etched on the plinth of the beautiful 107-year old trophy adorned by a veritable who's who of names going back over a century: Michael Moran, Willie Nolan, Fred Daly, Harry Bradshaw (10-times), Christy O'Connor Senior (also 10-times), Norman Drew, Des Smyth, Philip Walton, Eamon Darcy, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington to name a few; nearly all of them famous Ryder Cup stars.
When I asked Timmy how it felt to have his name amongst such legends he modestly declared: "The IPGA championship is no longer what it once was." My answer to that was "Irish Champion has a nice ring to it and don't ever knock it!"
It isn't as if Limerick natives have won a plethora of national championships as individuals. Jackie Harrington (Irish Close, 1979) and Barbara Hackett (Irish Ladies Close, 1996) is the sum total - if I am not gravely mistaken.
The IPGA cup is so valuable that Tim wasn't allowed to bring it home to Limerick GC to show it off to his fellow-members who have supported him since he was a small boy and none of them more so than his proud Dad, Billy - a former Irish champion himself in a team context
“I haven't won anything in ages but the first three days were as well as I have played for years. There was a lot of wind this week, particularly across the course. I love that because I was able to use it to my advantage”.
Said the 39-year-old who at one stage stretched his lead to six shots. Defensive golf and some good play by Moriarty saw a gradual momentum shift but the gap was too big. Next up for Timmy is a return to EuroPro Tour action near Bath, England next week where the first prize will be a more substantial £10,000.
RYAN WINS ITA WALLACE TROPHY
Meanwhile, Chloe Ryan (Castletroy) won the Ita Wallace Trophy at the Irish Ladies Close Championship at Mullingar thanks to a brilliant display of long driving and deadly approach play.
IRISH SENIOR CUP - NORTH MUNSTER
At the beautifully conditioned, Charleville course (which I have never seen looking better) a youthful and inexperienced, Limerick GC senior cup side, featuring two of last year's All-Ireland winning (Under-18) Fred Daly team captained by the wily veteran, Ger Vaughan, brought off a surprise win in the North Munster Section of the Irish Senior Cup.
Having beaten red hot favourites, Castletroy, on Saturday, Lahinch were strongly favoured to go through with a team fortified by two former Limerick stalwarts, Mark MacGrath and Michael O'Kelly.
Somewhat ironic that the two 'exports' were the only Lahinch winners against their former teammates.
Fifth year student at Crescent Comp, Morgan Hanley, making his senior cup debut was the hero of the hour.
Showing strong nerves and no little skill, Hanley defeated the golden boy of Clare golf, another rising teenage star and a current Irish Boys International, Jonathan Keane by 2/1. The match was a classic with the youngsters 'going for everything' and matching each other shot for shot.
This display by the 2-handicap, Hanley would really make you question the wisdom of the Munster selectors in dropping him from the provincial panel. Why would you drop somebody with a Fred Daly medal in their locker?
DETAILS: Round 1 - Lahinch bt Ennis, 4/1; Adare Manor bt Ballyneety, 3/2; East Clare bt Rathbane ( W/O); Dromoland Castle bt Nenagh 3.5 / 1.5; Woodstock bt Charleville 3.5 / 1.5; Shannon bt Charleville 4/1.
Round 2 - Lahinch bt Castletroy 3.5/1.5; Adare Manor bt East Clare, 4/1; Dromoland Castle bt Woodstock, 4/1; Limerick bt Shannon, 4/1;
Round 3- Lahinch bt Adare Manor, 3/2; Limerick bt Dromoland Castle, 4/1
Area Final - Limerick 3; Lahinch 2: Michael Reddan beat Bob Loftus, 1-hole; Morgan Hanley beat Jonathan Keane, 2/1; Sean Poucher lost to Michael O'Kelly at 19th; Ciaran Vaughan lost to Mark MacGrath, 2/1; Justin Keogh beat Thomas Neenan, 2/1.