Istanbul, the Nou Camp, Anfield, Medinah… Headfort Golf Club, the site of one of the greatest AIG Irish Amateur Close finals in recent times as Quentin Carew completed one of the great underdog stories with a remarkable comeback victory over Hugh Foley.
Were we going to have the historic win or the romantic story? In the end it was the latter, but it was no less dramatic. A true David vs Goliath story.
It was a remarkable comeback from Carew who came from four down with nine to play to win it on the 20th hole after a stunning 2-iron guaranteed two putts from 8-feet for the win. He only needed one and cue dramatic scenes on the par-5 2nd. He had climbed his Everest.
“I can’t even put it into words at the moment,” said an emotional Carew whose biggest claim to fame was a runner-up finish in the Irish Mid-Am last year.
“I thought through nine holes the dream was maybe starting to slip away from me but I rallied with a couple of birdies.
“I made it as hard as possible on myself but look it’s one to remember to do it that way, four down after nine, it’s one I’ll never forget.
“Hugh is just phenomenal, just so hard to play against doesn’t put a foot wrong I knew I had to hit the shots and last few holes I hit some big ones. 16 was big and the 2-iron there was the one that rounded it off. I can’t believe it, I really can’t believe it.
“The big thing with myself is having that confidence and belief and that was a big one today to show I am capable of doing it. It’s a very proud moment for me and my family, I owe it all to them as well they were with me the whole way. My brother Dougie caddied for me the whole way, I relied on him so much and he helped get me over the line in those moments, at ten he put the arm around me and said ‘let’s get it going one at a time,” added the 31-year-old who visited a chiropractor on Tuesday night.
Carew knew he would never get a better chance to lift a major title. But his dream began to fade after turning four behind to Foley who was looking to become the first player since Darren Clarke in 1990 to complete the North, South and Close hat-trick. However, there was still life in Carew yet who had qualified at the eleventh hour in 64th place and beat Alex Maguire and Paul Conroy en route to the decider.
Birdies on the tenth and twelfth either side of a gutsy par on eleven halved the deficit to just two and from there the Castleknock golfer hit all the big shots.
“11 the chip just jumped off the fringe and that was a big moment after winning the 10th you couldn’t afford to give one back and holing that was big, Hugh went into bother on 12 and I held for birdie and that gave me the belief in myself that I could turn it around just took it one hole at a time and fortunately got it over the line at the end.”
After winning the 14th to reduce the arrears to just one, Carew landed a serious blow and announced himself as a contender to snatch this match away from Foley after he drilled a 3-wood to four feet on the par-5 16th to level the match for the first time since the 4th.
That proved to be the turning point in the match and in the Allenwood native’s mentality.
“I hit 3-wood in from 265 and I knew I could hit it as hard as I want. Now look, I wasn’t exactly taking on the flag full on but it peeled nicely onto the flag and that was a huge moment to get it back to level and it gave me a great boost of confidence in myself, that I could finish the job out and I had the shots to do it.”
Remarkably it was the Tallaght based Garda who had all three putts to win the Close Championship, the first was a watery attempt from beyond the pin on 18, but after a powerful drive which showed no signs of a player ailed by the effects of a car accident a year ago, he set up another chance on the 19th which agonisingly turned its nose up at the hole.
On the 20th though he hit one of the best two-iron shots around to eight-feet to set-up a stunning eagle and complete a fairytale comeback.
“You don’t get many chances against Hugh Foley to win a match and I thought 19 was the one and it just slipped the edge and I thought maybe the chance might have been and gone but Duggie again rallied me and said ‘get going again, get another opportunity.’
“I hit 2-iron from 267 I hit it as hard as I can and just hoped it would get there and luckily it landed in the perfect spot to about 8-feet. That’s the winner there, I won’t hit a better one than that. I couldn’t believe it when I hit it, it just came out of the screws it really did so it will be the one I remember for the rest of my life I’m sure,” beamed Carew.
The headlines had been written in some people’s minds before the first tee shots of this final were hit and the difference in characters was evident. Serial winner Foley was marching on robotically, head down, laser focused while Carew was laughing and joking and lapping up every moment of this new stage he had found himself on.
Even in the depths of despair at the halfway point that involved a hacking match with some nettles on 8 and the heat of battle down the stretch he was still chatting to the spectators.
“I tried to normalise it as much as I could,” said Carew who drew first blood with a gimme birdie on 3. “The important thing was to enjoy myself, enjoy the moment, enjoy being here it may not come again for me and I think when I got through 4 down I wasn’t too down on myself I said keep going get through it you never know what’s going to happen it’s matchplay all it takes is a couple of holes.
“Chatting to people just relaxed the body for me and kept me calm and it was a big factor. The amount of people that followed me it really made a big difference.”
The Garda steals the Close and he will surely parade the trophy around Tallaght Garda Station when he returns to the day job at 7am on Friday morning.