England’s John Gough has plenty of family in Meath and like any good Meathman he showed grit and determination to get the job done after he put on a fabulous finish to claim the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship at the Island.
Three birdies in a row on 14, 15 and 16 saw Gough edge his nose in front and eventually open up a three-shot gap before he showed tremendous courage to salvage a bogey on 18.
It’s not often that one of the great final round performances is bookended by bogeys but that bogey on the last will live long in the memory as the Englishman posted eight-under in the clubhouse after a 67.
It’s Gough’s second win of the season after capturing the Master of the Amateurs in Australia, he also won the Lytham Trophy last year and reached the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship.
Overnight leader and course record holder Tomi Bowen and England’s Dylan Shaw-Radford applied late pressure with birdies on 15 to get to -7 meaning Gough had a two-shot cushion going up the 72nd hole but after Bowen saw his race run with a dropped shot on 16, Shaw-Radford was unable to capitalise on Gough’s bogey with a closing birdie.
Laytown&Bettystown man Alex Maguire (-5) held a share of the lead after 12 holes on six-under but he ran out of steam and fell back to five-under and settled for fourth after a 71 which saw him come away as the leading Irishman.
Gough was the favourite coming into the week and was the highest ranked amateur in the field at 14th so he was a fitting winner.
“It was a bit of a tough finish and today the wind was blowing a bit more and it wasn’t as nice as yesterday but to win in front of all my family and friends it was great. A lot of them don’t get to see me play golf so coming over and doing it in front of them they must think I’m pretty good at it so it was lovely.
“My dad is from Meath and my mum is from Newry, me and my brother are one of the only few born across the pond in England and our cousins definitely let us know that.”
Gough started the final round five shots shy of Bowen on three-under having bogeyed 17 and 18 on Saturday night. An opening bogey on Sunday morning made it three successive dropped shots having gone 37 holes without a blemish.
He bounced back with a birdie on the third and then roared into the mix with a hat trick of birdies either side of the turn.
Having been visibly frustrated he had finally wrestled the momentum back in his favour with some clutch putting.
“It’s a golf course where you’re going to make bogeys even from good situations. The first day I had a triple and a double, would be a great basketball score! To keep them off my card for the rest of the week and then only four bogeys for my last three rounds definitely helped get the trophy.
“I can’t moan about my putting now, not all of them dropped but I kept saying to myself if they’re not in they’re stone dead a couple of pins if you go at them you can have a four or five footer back which makes golf a lot harder. It was patience, last night I was impatient when I came off the course. All my family kept telling me to stay patient and they would drop and a couple dropped on 8 and 9 and that was the start of it.”
That put the 24-year-old within two of the lead but as those around him began to stumble, he went up a gear. The 14th hole was reduced to an iron, wedge and a four-foot birdie before he tapped in for birdie on the par-5 15th after an eagle putt from the back edge shaved the hole.
His closest challenger at the time was Maguire but the killer blow was struck on 16 after he drilled his tee shot to three-feet and sank the putt to move three clear with two to play.
Gough can put on the style but he also showed he can grind it out and a superb up and down on 17 from right of the green looked to have sewn up the win. But after he dragged his tee shot left on 18, a penalty drop put the championship back in the melting pot.
Having gouged out of the thick stuff, the Londoner stitched a nine iron from 135 yards to two-feet leaving him the easiest of putts for a super bogey.
Gough’s father hails from Dunderry in Meath while he has cousins in Athboy and relations in Kilmessan and he displayed all the typical Meathness in him with a gutsy closing bogey which proved enough for the win.
“I’ll remember that one for a while I’m sure! I was struggling off 18 with the tee shot all week and it was meant to be a stock shot with the driver and it wasn’t the best of strikes, went left had to take a drop, hacked it out and it popped into a good number,
“I hit a lovely shot to a couple of feet and made the bogey putt more stress free after hitting a shot like that from 135 yards.
“I knew where I was standing on the back nine, I would be a scoreboard watcher I like to know, then I kept on top of it, it was great. The birdie on 16 was huge because it’s not an easy par-3 and i knew 17 and 18 anything can happen. It was a relief holing those three birdies in a row,” explained Gough who was the guest of honour in Robert Moran’s house and he has the bragging rights.
“I’ll make sure he knows I’m their favourite son, they looked after me incredibly well and it’s great to have friends and family around it was a great week.”
There’s no rest for the wicked though as Gough – who could have played for Ireland – will tee it up again on Tuesday at Walton Heath for a 36-hole US Open qualifier.
England’s Shaw-Radford settled for runner-up after a 70 while Bowen slumped to a 75 for third on six-under but his name is in the Island Golf Club history books after a Saturday course record 62.
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