Dublin Strokeplay Senior Gents

The Dublin gent’s senior strokeplay took place on Sunday and a look through the field displayed just open and hard to pick a winner it would be. The 1st to make statements in the opening round would not have been on that list but they put themselves in real contention with scores of 45, firstly by Ierne’s John Denis and then by Old County’s Karl Murphy. Mark Millar the former All Ireland Matchplay champion would have been among the favourites and he started strongly with a 47. There was plenty of 50’s and 51’s, perhaps surprisingly Philip Byrne from the host club was among those to shoot 51 and many had tipped Philip to run away with this title on his home track. In the second round, Paul Nolan showed no ill effects from his Leinster Matchplay defeat last Sunday to add a 47 to his earlier 51 to post 98. Old County’s Tom O’Reilly had a 49 to add to his 48 and he was well poised on 97 as was Mark Milllar, but Murphy and Denis continued their fine scoring and added 51’s and 49’s respectively to give the Ierne man a two shot lead heading to the final round. Phil Byrne found his form in the 2nd 18 to add a 48 and his score of 99 left him within striking distance. Perhaps though the biggest surprise was the early exit of former champ and recently crowned Leinster Matchplay champion, JR Crangle, John had a disappointing day and could only manage a score of 107 to finish five shy of the cut off mark.
Heading into the final round,. Lucan’s Darren Kane and Shandon’s Jim Judge led the 16 players off. Both on 102 though needed big rounds to get close to the leading quartet. In the early groups, none were able to get the start they needed Junior Smith starting on 101 looked in a healthy position when -4 after 9, but he found birdies harder to come by in the 2nd nine. Old County’s Stephen Murray posted -12 but he would need the leading players to falter badly to get back into contention. Mark Millar started brightly -2 through 9, and Karl Murphy too started steadily to reach the turn just +1 and still -13. John Dennis started poorly and bogeys on 3rd and 5th saw him lose his lead, but he steadied things to finish +1 at the turn. The real move was being made by Tom O’Reilly he birdied three of the opening six holes and when he sunk a long putt on the 7th and chipped in from in front of the bank on the 8th, he had moved to -16 and was three clear of the other three. However up in front Philip Byrne was making his charge he really got his game going on the back nine and finished on -16 to set a challenging total for the final pairings. Tom O’Reilly was now in sublime form and superb pitches on 10th and 11th saw him move to -18 and now five clear of Millar and Murphy. Murphy though birdied 10 and 11 himself to reduce the lead and Millar moved to -14 with a fine birdie on the tricky 12th. It was looking like a procession for Tom until the 13th. Tom’s pitch landed long and ended in the bunker, with a less than favourable lie, he chipped into the front bunker and with the aid of a five foot putt he escaped with a double bogey 5, his lead was now down to one shot on Murphy and two on Millar, he was now level with the clubhouse leader Phil Byrne. The tension was palpable. Tom over pitched the 14th whilst Mark Millar pitched to 3 feet. It look like we could see a two shot swing, but Tom scrambled down to get his par and Millar missed his putt to the disbelief of the watching crowds. The reprieve was only a brief one for Tom as Mark Millar pitched even closer on 15th and this time he made no mistake to move to -15. Tom was now on the ropes and when he pitched big on the 16th to leave himself with a delicate downhill chip; it looked like the wheels were coming off. Mark Millar was turning the screw and pitched to six feet. Tom though held strong and his chip stopped just inches from the hole. Mark showed true grit to sink the putt and both players were -16. Karl in the group behind missed a short putt on the 15th to join them on -16 and he watched agonisingly on the 16th as his putt slide by again. Mark and Tom managed three’s on the 17th and when Karl found a birdie there, they were all -16 with one to play. John Dennis had fought back bravely from his disappointing start and he was back at -15 playing the last. Mark was first to pitch and he hit a beauty to three feet. Tom was now up against it. It was now or never and he delivered an inch perfect pitch that stopped just short of the hole. Tom duly tapped in for birdie and Mark had a tricky putt to match Tom on -17, he rolled it in and they were into a play-off. The question was would there be two or three in the play-off. Karl Murphy pitched the last but his putt just missed on the right side of the hole and his race was run coming up just short. It was O’Reilly versus Millar for the title.
The opening holes were cagey both pared the 1st three, Tom guilty of a missed birdie putt on the 1st. However it was Tom who struck first with an excellent birdie on the 4th. Tom lead by one playing the 6th and when Mark was just three feet away, Tom needed a seven foot putt to hold his lead. He rattled it into the hole and Mark converted his putt to leave the gap at one. Both hit wild pitches on the 7th but Tom chipped close to secure his par. Mark feeling he needed to make things happen over pitched his chip and left himself a five foot putt for par. He missed it and Tom was now two clear. On a day of such high drama, it was never going to be plain sailing for Tom and when he duffed his chip on the 8th, he missed his par putt and his lead was just one playing the last. Mark had the ideal chance to put the pressure on Tom, but sadly for Mark, he picked that hole to play his worst pitch and ended up well short of the green. Tom seizing his chance found the green and two putts were more than enough to secure a two shot win and the biggest title of his career so far. In his speech Tom was in absolute shock at the win and overjoyed. He mentioned his find memories of the course as he had sunk the winning putt on the 18th green to land Old County the Senior league title there last June. For Mark he will rue a few missed putts but his day in this championship won’t be long coming. Philip Byrne’s finally round of 47 was enough to secure him third spot. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful weekend of pitch & putt. The win also saw Old County win the senior title for the 1st time since 1995. Attention will now switch to Lucan as the National Matchplay roadshow rolls into town next weekend.