McElroy claims Christy O’Connor Jnr trophy with top-5 finish at Portmarnock Links

John Craven

Dermot McElroy (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)

John Craven

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Dermot McElroy was rightly focussed on the positives after claiming the Christy O’Connor Jnr trophy as the leading Irishman despite his hopes of a maiden Challenge Tour title falling short at the Irish Challenge at Portmarnock Links on Sunday.

The Ballymena professional went into the final day holding a slender one-stroke lead but saw his chances slip at the hands of an ice cold putter; McElroy signing for a closing one-over 72 and a seven-under tally, tying fourth just two shots shy of a playoff in Dublin.

“I played very well this week and I’m just especially happy with my overall game,” said McElroy who pockets a cool €11,000 for his week’s work. “There were no destructive shots whatsoever. I’m obviously disappointed not to actually win because I had a great opportunity all day to make a lot of birdies but unfortunately it just didn’t happen.”

“The course was out there for the taking as you can see with the scores today. I gave myself plenty of chances but I just could not hole a putt.”

The performance will come as a massive boost for the 27-year old who was ranked 1857 in the world coming into the week. Starved of competition time at the hands of the pandemic in recent months, as far as seasonal reappearances go, they don’t come much better with McElroy now hoping for more Challenge Tour starts ahead of a busy summer’s golf.

“I don’t actually know if I get in next week because I’m not a member of the Challenge Tour, no status whatsoever, but my main goal this year is to get on the Challenge Tour for next year and progress from there,” he said having picked up the Christy O’Connor Jnr trophy for the second time at the event.

“It’s a great achievement obviously. I’ve won that trophy before, maybe four or five years ago, but again, it’s just great to play pretty good in quite a big event.”

It was also a nice week for Michael Hoey who raced up the leaderboard into seventh place at six-under par courtesy of a final day 66 in the capital.

“It was actually quite solid,” Hoey reflected. “These courses suit me. A lot of the guys here hit it forty past me so I tend to need golf courses like this where 10, 12-under are winning tournament scores. I really enjoyed the golf course. It was a very well run tournament. It’s not easy getting events on but getting the hotel and the golf course, getting a good prize fund together along with Sport Ireland – we thank them for that.”

And another Irishman leaving the Links happy would’ve been Holywood teenager Tom McKibbin who picked up his first pro cheque with a tie for 12th on Sunday. The 18-year old signed off with an even par 71 for a three-under total, one stroke clear of St. Anne’s pro Cameron Raymond [T18] and two clear of Mallow’s James Sugrue [T23].

As for the rest of the Irish, Simon Thornton and Paul McBride shared 35th at two-over, one clear of Stuart Grehan and Gavin Moynihan who tied 43rd at plus-three while Conor O’Rourke rounded out the ten Irish into the weekend with a top-50 finish at four-over.

As for the winning of the tournament, Daan Huizing produced a sensational final round of golf to claim his third European Challenge Tour title defeating Spaniard Eduard Rousaud in a play-off at Portmarnock Links. The Dutchman carded a four-under par round of 67, which included birdies at 16 and 18, to take the  clubhouse lead at nine under par before Rousaud birdied the 18th with a stunning long-range putt to force a play-off.

Rousaud made bogey on the first play-off hole after missing a short-range putt, leaving Huizing with the chance to put his name up in lights and the 30-year-old duly converted to claim his third Challenge Tour victory and first since the 2019 Jordan Mixed Open Presented by Ayla.

“I am over the moon,” he said. “I love Ireland, I have played well here many times and the course was fantastic. I was shaping the ball nicely with the wind and I never once looked at the leaderboard. It was only after I had finished on the 18th and walked up the hill that I realised I was in the lead.

“Rousaud then made a birdie to take it to a play-off. It has been a great week; I have really enjoyed it here and to walk away with the win is the perfect ending.

“You can work so hard in golf and not get much back. It is just starting to sink in now, thinking about all the work I have done. Over four days for it all to come together is special.

“I had some very tough years, the win in Jordan was very big but it didn’t count for the Rankings so ultimately didn’t bring me anything. I ended up being just shy of gaining my tour card in 2019 and then to commit to the Challenge Tour this year was a real tough decision as it meant to letting go of a lot of European Tour starts. This just makes it all worthwhile.”

First round leader Alfredo Garcia-Heredia finished third on eight under par, while Spain’s David Borda, Germany’s Yannik Paul and Northern Irishman Dermot McElroy shared fourth place on seven under par. McElroy also finished as the top Irishman meaning he took home the Christy O’Connor Junior trophy.

The win has catapulted Huizing to third on the Road to Mallorca Rankings with 46,490 points and Rousaud moves to tenth on the Rankings, while South African Wilco Nienaber remains in first place.

The Road to Mallorca now moves to the Czech Republic, with the D+D REAL Czech Challenge taking place at Golf & Spa Kunětická hora, Czech Republic, from June 3 – June 6.

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