Robert Moran put up a valiant effort as he finished fourth at the 56th Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes as three Irish secured top-10 finishes.
First round leader Matthew McClean and Dundalk’s Eoin Murphy finished in a share of sixth place on six-over, six shots adrift of eventual winner John Gough who won by the slenderest of margins on level-par after a thrilling final day.
Castle golfer Moran had the halfway lead coming into the final two rounds on Sunday but rounds of 75 and 73 left him with too much work to do to overhaul Gough down the stretch.
The Irish international signed for a four-over total for the 72 holes as Ireland’s wait for a first Lytham Trophy winner since Paul Cutler in 2010.
In the end, a chastening front nine of 40 on Sunday morning put paid to Moran’s chances of lifting the Sputnik Trophy as he triple-bogeyed the par-5 7th and added insult to injury with a double-bogey six on the eighth. He did recover some of the damage on the back nine and then the front nine of his afternoon round but it wasn’t enough.
Having got back to level-par with nine holes to play, Moran’s challenge faded with a back nine of 40 after bogeys on the 10th, 13th, 14th and 18th saw him finish four shots adrift of Gough.
Malone’s Matthew McClean closed with rounds of 73 and a level-par 70 while Dundalk’s Eoin Murphy saw his challenge fade with a final round 76 having thrust himself into the mix on Sunday morning with a superb 69.
In the end it was a shootout between Spanish Amateur champion Gough and Scotsman Connor Graham to see who would come out on top.
Gough’s level-par 70 was enough for a one-shot win after he birdied the 17th and Graham dropped a shot there, which proved crucial despite a one-under 69.
Gough recovered from an early double-bogey and three successive dropped shots in the middle of his back nine to chisel out a hard-fought victory.
Rounding off the Irish challenge was Richard Knightly and Jack McDonnell. Royal Dublin’s Knightly finished on eleven-over-par despite shooting a one-under 69 in his final round for his best score of the week.
Meath man McDonnell closed with rounds of 75 and 78 for an eighteen-over total and 42nd position.