The Gents Senior Strokeplay took place at a sun drenched Erins Isle on Sunday. The course was in pristine conditions and with relatively binane conditions, scoring was expected to be low and the players did not disappoint with some scintillating pitch & putt. In the opening round, the likes of Andy Lowe and JR Crangle shot 46’s and former winner David Hayden along with his Lucan compatriots Chris Gallagher and Keith Redmond carded 45’s, but that was still not to be the leading score, even local favourite Paul Nolan score of 43 was not the lowest, it was new EI recruit and holder of their scratch cup Mark Millar who led the way with a brilliant 42.
In the second round the low scoring continued unabated as Jim McLaughlin added a 45 to finish on 93. Paul Nolan added a 49 to his earlier 43 and Mark Millar also had to settle for a 49. That left the door open for the lead to switch hand and playing in the later groups, both 2005 champion Chris Gallagher and the reigning Dublin Matchplay champion Keith Redmond added 2nd successive 45’s and lead the way on 90 (-18). The field though was closely packed together and there was just ten shots separating the top 20 players.
The Holder Tom O’Reilly had missed out on a place in the play-off as he signed off with a score of 101 as the cut came on 100.
Heading into the play-off we wondered whether anyone would emerge from the pack to post a low score and forge their way into contention. The truth was the scoring in the play-off across the board was extremely low and in the opening pairing Tom Ryan was to narrowly miss a putt on the 18th for a 44. His score of 45 temporarily gave him the clubhouse lead on -19 (143). Behind Tom the scoring was even hotter, DCB chairman Anthony Malone was constructing a birdie blitz and he found himself with a birdie putt on the 18th for a 41. Like Tom before him the putt just sailed by and he set the new target of 140 (-22). Again though that lead was short lived as George McGreal the runner up in 2007 was -11 after 15 for his round, disappointingly for George, he could not find a birdie over the closing three holes and he finished on -23 to become the latest leader.
Most of the spectators on the course were asking two questions, would Chris & Keith reproduce their phenomenal scoring of the opening 36 holes or would JR Crangle and Mark Millar find a way to land the title. Millar and Crangle both started strongly adding early birdies to put the pressure on the leading duo, but the leaders responded themselves. Chris set out like a man on a mission by birding the opening seven holes, it was pin point pitching as Chris rarely had a sizeable putt to sink on that run. Keith made a slower start but he still managed three birdies of his own over the opening seven holes to stay on Chris coat tail. It looked like it would be a procession for Chris to the title, but rarely are things so simple and so it proved.
After majestic pitching through the opening 7 holes, Chris missed the tricky 08th green and it was to cost him a bogey, Keith took full advantage of Chris mistake to sink his fourth birdie and the gap between the two was just two. Up ahead JR and Mark were playing in different two balls but they were also matching each other with both players -8 through 15 holes.
After Chris mistake on 8, he hit a poor pitch on nine but a clever chip ensured there was no further shots dropped, Keith narrowly missed his birdie to close to within one. Both had to settle for pars on 10, when Keith pitched to within inches on the 11th and Chris was through the green, we wondered whether this might be a turning point. Chris though to his credit hit a precision chip and into the hole it went as he stayed two clear. Keith closed the gap on 12th with an excellent two and then both hit pitches within inches of a hole in one on the 13th.
Up ahead JR Crangle could not find the birdies he needed over the closing holes and finished on -24 (138). Mark looked like he would finish on -25 but he squeezed a chip in out of the last hole to post a tricky target of -26 for the final two. Chris was on -26, playing the 15th and Keith was -25. Keith narrowly missed his birdie and Chris crucially sunk his to move two clear. After the 16 was parred, Chris and Keith both sunk putts on 17 for birdies. Chris was now -28 and two clear of Mark and Keith. Keith needed a two on the last to at least secure second and maybe more if Chris was to slip up, but neither was to happen, Keith was to take a bogey and it was to cost him second as Mark Millar secured the runner’s up prize. Chris though cooly chipped up to a foot and knocked in the putt to secure a memorable win. It was a great win under intense pressure as the remaining players shot very low round to heap the pressure on him over the closing holes, but his final round of 44 was his best of the day and his final score of -28 was a testiment to the standard of pitch & putt on the day.
In his speech, Chris expressed his delight at the win. He dedicated the win to the memory of EI’s Dave Donnelly who sadly was not with us to defend his title. Chris has been one of the most consistent performers on the circuit in recent years and his excellent play has not yielded the results he deserved, he put that to bed in some style on Sunday.
The DCB Chairman had great reason to cheer as well seeing so many of the Dublin players in fine fettle with the Inter Counties on the horizon.
Congratulations to Erins Isle on presenting a wonderful course for the championships and the low scoring across the three grades were proof the superb greens the competitors were playing on. It was also wonderful to see a great spread of winners from so many courses with players from Erins Isle, Glenville, Loughlinstown, Lucan, Long Meadows and Ring Common all getting on the podium.
A huge thanks to our sponsors Drain Doctor and especially Paul Griffin. Paul is a great ambassador of the sport and we are fortunate to have such a terrific sponsor of our flagship event.
The day belonged to Chris and after waiting nine years for his second major title, Chris will hope he has opened the door for many more major titles over the next few years.
134: Chris Gallagher (Lucan)
136: Mark Millar (Erins Isle)
137: Keith Redmond ( Lucan)
138: JR Crangle ( Loughlinstown)
139: George McGreal (Old County)
140: Anthony Malone (Lucan), John Dennis (Ierne)
142: Joe Joyce (Glenville), Jim McLaughlin (Erins Isle), Paul Nolan (Erins Isle)
143: Tom Ryan (Portmarnock), Jim Judge Junior (Erins Isle)
144: David Hayden (Lucan)
145: Andy Lowe (Old County)
146: Junior Smith (RGSC), John Lawler(RGSC)
147: Darren Kane (Lucan)
148: Gary Healy (Loughlinstown), Anthony Mahoney(Glenville)
Eric Doyle ( Long Meadows)
Chris Gallagher (Lucan)
Charlie Egan (Erins Isle)