Robert Moran rolled in a thirteen foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to beat defending champion Quentin Carew and win the AIG Irish Men’s Amateur Close Championship.
Moran and Carew were tied at one-under after 72 holes and could not be separated following two trips up the 18th before Carew saw a 25-foot birdie effort on the par-3 12th (75th) come up a hair shy leaving the stage clear for Moran to drill his birdie putt home for his maiden national title.
“It feels pretty good, a mix of emotions it was up and down today but absolutely delighted to be here, absolutely shattered now that the adrenaline is gone I am bloody wiped but over the moon,” said Moran who was runner-up to Peter O’Keeffe in Tullamore in 2021 and now wins his first of the big six with his other notable win being the Ulster Strokeplay.
“My heart, I feel like an old man at 24 now. It was nice to hole a winning putt that meant a lot I missed a lot of putts today but to hole that one on the playoff hole I will remember that one. I would rather not have done three playoff holes but either way I’m happy.”
This was a day filled with drama. The Castle Golf Club star began round three with a two-shot deficit to overturn but a bogey-free 66 on Sunday morning lifted him into a three-shot lead on five-under-par.
Winning is never easy and the Irish international blew this championship wide open with back-to-back bogeys on the sixth and seventh – his first blemish in 27 holes – before dropped shots on the tenth and a cruel lip out bogey on 14 saw him fall into a share of the lead with Castleknock’s Carew.
Carew wasn’t without his own chances as he looked to become the first man since Rory McIlroy in 2006 to successfully defend the Close.
Having fallen four back with bogeys on 4 and 6 he bounced back with a 25-foot birdie on the 8th and while he made clutch up and downs on the 9th from a plugged lie and 14 from near the hazard, he saw numerous putts shave the edges while a guilt edged chance went begging on 16 from 8-feet.
Moran had a 2-foot putt on 17 for birdie to go two clear going up the last but amazingly the ball didn’t drop and after he flailed a gap wedge right of the 18th green he was unable to get up and down and dropped his fifth shot of the day to sign for a 74. At that moment he thought it was over but he had to pick himself up quickly and get ready for a sudden-death playoff after Carew made a clutch up and down on the 72nd to force extra holes for the second successive year.
“I missed a fairly short one on 17 and made a terrible bogey on the last,” explained Moran who very nearly regretted giving Carew chipping lessons during the week. “I left it up to Quentin and he made a great up and down on the last so I had to pick myself up as quick as possible because there is no point on dwelling on messing up the last couple of holes before you tee it up in a playoff.
“I saw Quentin chipping on the last and I knew it was going to be typical, me and Richie Knightly helped him with his chipping, I told him I chip a few cack-handed, he chipped that cack-handed so it was typical he chipped it close. Played with him the first couple of days and he was chipping everything stone dead so I might have to start charging him a bit more next time.”
Moran bogeyed the 18th (73rd) again after a three-putt, gifting Carew the chance to enter the history books, but he saw his par effort from six feet slide by on the left and Moran was onto his third life.
The Dubliner drilled a 7-iron from 205 to thirteen feet on the 12th and rolled the putt straight into the middle, drawing a huge roar from his supporting family and friends.
It’s been a difficult season for the Walker Cup hopeful by his own admission but he felt he found something in his game after an impressive performance for Ireland in the recent Home Internationals. A frustrating year now turns into a landmark season.
“Golf is weird. The early part of the year I started off alright then the big events in the summer I didn’t play very well. I haven’t won anything as big as this before so you could say this has been one of my best seasons but it shows if you stick at it hopefully good things like this can happen.
“My parents travel all over the place with me so it was great they could be here today, a few relatives, aunts, uncles and cousins for them to jump in the car and come up it means a lot so happy I could play well in front of them today, the support was great.”
For Carew, who closed with a final round 71 it was a terrific title defence after his 200/1 victory last year.
“It was a great week, came so close there,” he said. “I thought maybe it would go my way the last few holes but it didn’t and the playoff could have went either way. Fair play to Rob, 205-yard par-3 and makes birdie you can’t do much about that.”
In third place was Tramore’s Jack Hearn on one-over after back-to-back rounds of 72 while Keith Egan (Carton House) took fourth on two-over after rounds of 69 and 73 – his chances gone after a triple bogey on the 55th.
Portmarnock’s Brandon St John took fifth on a count back from Liam Nolan on five-over.