Fleming and Keeling come out on top at Portrush Scratch Cups

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l-r Roma English Immediate Past Captain, Darren Bolton Zara Bolton's grandson, Ladies winner Emma Fleming, Mens winner Sean Keeling, Ian Bamford and Royal Portrush GC Captain Ashley Moore.

The in-form Emma Fleming and Sean Keeling were winners of the 36-hole Scratch Cups at Royal Portrush.

Emma (18) from Elm Park returned to Dublin with the Zara Bolton Scratch Cup while Sean (16) from Roganstown finished a shot clear of his two nearest challengers, including his brother Patrick (18), to take delivery of the Ian Bamford Scratch Cup.

This one day event which was launched by Royal Portrush last year embraces Golf Ireland’s policy of greater inclusivity as part of its strategic plan to grow the sport at all amateur levels, and many of Ireland’s top amateurs were among the 45 women and 45 men who teed up on the Dunluce and Valley courses.

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Emma was a clear winner, shooting a final score of four under 143, three shots ahead of runner-up Kate Lanigan (Hermitage), Anna Abom (Edmondstown) who was third, and Clodagh Coughlan (Douglas) in fourth place.

It was her second Scratch Cup victory in seven days, having won at Royal Co Down the previous week, her first ever.

She said: “I found the Valley a lot easier than Dunluce and I suppose the calm weather helped as well. I like this format and much prefer to play the 36 holes over two courses instead of just one.”

Zara Bolton, a former captain of a winning Curtis Cup team, was a member at Royal Portrush until her death in 1994.

Ian Bamford, twice winner of the North of Ireland, a former president of the GUI, and life long member at Portrush, donated a solid silver replica of the Irish Open Amateur Championship cup he won in 1957, and which was presented to Keeling after he recovered from an erratic start to his second round on the Dunluce links.

He finished -5 after his first 18 holes on the Valley where he claimed his iron play was as good as any time in his career. But it wasn’t until the 7th that he got his first par on his second 18 after starting bogey, birdie, birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey.

His just missed a six foot putt for birdie on the 17th which would have got him to -7 for the two rounds, but with Paul Rohdich, a family friend and council member at Portrush acting as his caddie, it was still good enough to hold off Co Sligo’s TJ Ford, and his brother Patrick who finished a shot behind on 138.

Afterwards the 4th-year student at Belvedere College declared: “There is such a special feeling playing here. Dunluce is the best course in Ireland; probably one of the best in the world and it’s just great to play a course of such calibre.”

He won the Connacht Under-18 and Ulster Boys titles last year, and believes this victory could be a good omen for the rest of the season. He is already thinking ahead to the Walker Cup at St Andrews and the Junior Ryder Cup in Italy in September.

Sean added: “I’m not on the Walker Cup panel, but a couple of more good wins in the coming months, and who knows?.”

The competition was sponsored by Ramore Restaurants, Robinson Interiors, Pattons Interiors and Skerries Holiday Park.

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