A buzzing Stephen Barry prevailed in a playoff to claim victory at the the PGA in Ireland Southern Branch Championship at The Heritage Golf Resort on Monday.
No fewer than 50 PGA professionals teed it up on the stunning Ballesteros Course but at the close of regulation play, two couldn’t be separated – Barry, and Galway Golf Club’s Andrew Hickey who both carded one-under par rounds of 71.
To the ninth hole they went; Hickey finding the bunker left off the tee with his two-iron, leaving the door ajar for Barry.
“It was probably the most nervous I’ve felt on a golf course in a long time,” said Barry, his last victory coming as a 19-year old amateur at the Laytown and Bettystown Scratch Cup in 2011.
“I haven’t had those feelings since playing Irish golf, or interpros with Leinster – so a long time! So to deal with them the way I did was very satisfying. It was pure cliche, just going back to deep breaths and trying to calm down. The training back in the day paid off 15 years later!”
Indeed, under the pressure, Barry produced a fully-committed 3-wood that was left untouched by a strong wind, setting up a 7-iron approach from 160-yards to six feet.
Hickey advanced his ball from the bunker to some 60 yards short of the green but having failed to get up and down, Barry was faced with two putts for the win, and he duly obliged to claim his first ever victory as a professional.
“It’s very nice to get it,” Barry said. “I’m generally pretty calm but I had to calm myself down a lot just to get in the moment. I put a lot of work into my game in the past and just tried to rely on that and thankfully it held up.
“They were probably two of the best swings I made all day so it was great to do it when it really counted.”
Barry’s early-season victory is sure to bode well for his upcoming campaign on the Region but far from reappraising his goals for the year, he’s just grateful for the opportunities the game gives him as he juggles his duties as a player with his role off the course as a PGA pro.
“I love everything about golf and although I’m not playing maybe as much as I’d like, I never stop thinking about it,” he added.
“Whenever I get to play is just a bonus. In the past there would’ve been times that I’d get frustrated thinking maybe I’m not as good as I could be but any chance I get now I’m just enjoying the challenge.
“The Heritage certainly provided that. It’s a tricky course and it’s a driver’s course and that would be my strength so thankfully I was able to keep the ball in play, keep it straight and that worked out nicely.”
The final place on the podium was shared between five other players who managed parity on the day with Eric Byrne, Liam Power, Shane Irwin, Steven Quinlan and David Ryan tying in third spot after even par 72s.
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