Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf
His teammates call him the night watchman and with good reason. Brian Slattery, a Limerick born member of Ballybunion Golf Club, playing in what is often referred to as a 'the cockpit/tailgunner' position at the back of the field, holed one of the most outrageous and inspired par putts of all time from all of 100-feet to win the Irish Junior Cup at Carton House's O'Meara Course on Thursday last.
It was a case of - if you can hit it, you can hole it and if you believe you can hole it - you just might!
Walking up the steep hill towards the 9th green Slattery was struggling with his game and not happy to be three down against Jack Ward from Dublin's Grange Golf Club, fully aware that two of his teammates ahead of him had already as good as lost out in the country, making it 0-2 and only three points left for grabs.
Any further mishaps and Ballybunion would not be toasting a victory. If Slattery wanted to win one of those beautiful and much-coveted gold medals it would be his responsibility and his alone.
Steeling himself, Slattery played a lovely short iron onto the undulating 9th green and rolled in the birdie putt. Ward made a mistake on the 10th; Slattery stayed
error free and took advantage.
Now, 1-down with eight holes to go! 1-up is no lead unless the 18th has been played.
One down always has a chance. Two chances, actually, one man can play a brilliant stroke or his opponent can make a mistake!
With a fighting par, the difficult, downhill 13th into a strong wind was also won
the Ballybunion player.
Full of confidence now, Slattery reduced the treacherous, par-3, 14th to two delightful shots to go one up for the first time just as the news filtered back that Frank Geary, the sole survivor from Ballybunion's famous 2013 Junior Cup win at Royal Tara, had won by 3& 2.
It wasn't long when Ballybunion's second point came from Adrian Walsh, also by 3/2; leaving the contest tied.
The destination of one of the oldest trophies in Irish golf (instituted in 1900) was entirely dependent on the result of
the tailgunner's match.
Amid excruciating tension, the 15th was halved. Ward splashed into the water hazard on the Augusta-like 16th to put Slattery 2-up. Both players missed the fairway on par 5, 17th. An anxious search was drawing close to the time limit when Slattery's ball was found in deep rough.
Eventually reaching the green in fours strokes and seeing his opponent in good shape 5-feet away in the same score, an anxious Slattery surveyed the large swale and rise between him and the hole, 100-feet away.
Breathing deeply and praying that he would somehow leave his putt close enough to force his opponent to hole his putt before going down the last with the slenderest of leads still intact, Brian gave himself and his anxious followers a 'shot of electrical adrenaline' that they are not likely to ever forget by holing the snaking monster!
Give Ballybunion the cup!
The 'good news' from Carton House ends there. Limerick Golf Club (14/1 outsiders before their semi-final match against the hotly-favored, home team Carton House) collectively lost their putting touches overnight and trailed a youthful and slightly built, Galway side from early on.
At the turn, there was a glimmer of hope for Limerick but it quickly evaporated and turned to despair on Carton's wind-swept greens as an impressively focused and determined Galway side steamrolled to a 3
matches to nil victory.
Ballykisteen made a great fight of it in their semi-final in the Jimmy Bruen Shield before succumbing on a tie hole to the eventual winners, Castlebar.
There was consolation for Ballykisteen a week earlier when hot on the heels of successfully hosting the EuroPro Tour in great style, the club's cup of joy runneth over by becoming All-Ireland Fourball champions at Millicent GC in County Kildare by defeating Royal
Ballykisteen's Club captain, James Keane, showed that he could 'walk the walk as well as talk the talk' when he combined expertly with Christopher Conway to seal the vital winning point in the crucial top match.
With the overall result on a knife edge, the destination of the trophy appeared to revolve around a nasty 5-foot putt on the 17th hole.
The captain of any golf club is usually a delegator in the background with willing helpers at his beck and call; not on this occasion. It was up to the captain, and nobody else, to step forward and drill the putt home all by himself. “I've dreamt of this for 22-years,” said Keane.
“To be captain this year and for this to happen is just absolutely brilliant. This is kind of something special and it makes my year.”
It was by no means a stress-free affair for the new champions. Although they had two points on the board following big wins for William Hanly and Pat Toomey (5&4) and Michael Ryan and Peter O'Donnell (6&5), Royal Curragh remained doggedly in contention.
“We had to dig deep, ”said Christopher Conway. “This is a nice thing to win, for me anyway, at this hour of my life. I'm 58 now. You don't get too many more chances.”
Yes, Christopher, but you took your chance. Well done!