Doogue claims Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy as leading qualifier at the West

Mark McGowan

Leading qualifier Mark Doogue hits his approach to 18

Mark McGowan

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Castleknock’s Mark Doogue ends day two as he began; looking down on the rest of the field. It was a day of high drama at County Sligo Golf Club in round two of the Connolly Motor Group West of Ireland Championship, and though blue skies kept the rain at bay, strong winds whipped in from the south and the Rosses Point links threw haymaker after haymaker at the 119 contestants battling to secure one of the 64 places in the matchplay section that starts tomorrow.

It was a day to make hay while the sun shone, and it shone brightest for the early starters who had the benefit of cool but relatively calm conditions for the first two-thirds of their rounds, but unfortunately for those in question, the closing stretch of the Colt Championship Course at County Sligo is among the toughest on the championship circuit and virtually all of the competitors fell victim to its dangers.

Doogue, out in the second group, traded three birdies with two bogeys on the front, but dropped three shots over the closing six to reach the clubhouse at -2, quietly confident that, matchplay qualification secured, it was going to take an excellent round to see him overtaken at the top.

“I’ll keep an eye on it now,” he said when asked if he’d be leaderboard watching, “maybe towards the afternoon and see. I’ll chill out now and go home, probably watch the three o’clock Kickoffs and then come back and see.”

It would be 2023 Bridgestone Order of Merit winner David Shiel that would prove the biggest threat, and having started the day at -2, he played superbly through the tough conditions to reach the 16th on that number. Knowing that a two-under was in the house, -3 was his sole focus but a bad swing on the 16th cost him a double bogey and he’d end up two back.

“Yeah, very happy with how I played, but very disappointed with the finish,” said Shiel afterwards. “Ultimately, I kind of knew that the lead was in at two-under, and I was two under with six to play, and I dropped one on 13. So I basically knew I had to play those five holes one-under, got the birdie on 14, and then had basically the first really bad swing of the two days on 16.”

The round of the day belonged to Coventry man Darryl Gwylliam, playing alongside Joe Lyons who comfortably made it through on +3. Gwylliam got it to -2 for the day early in the round and reeled off 12 consecutive pars to shoot a 69 and post +2 overall.

That 69 was one better than Carton House’s Keith Egan, who will go into the matchplay as the number two seed after following his opening 72 with a one-under 70 to sit alongside Shiel at level-par and Lyons, Matthew McClean, Hugh Foley, TJ Reid, Colm Campbell, Peter O’Keefe, Jake Whelan and Eddie McCormack are among those who’ve also made it safely through.

Just three months after his 16th birthday, Galway Bay’s Rory Gallagher is the youngest of the 64, while former champion McCormack, almost 40 years his senior, is the eldest.

When it was confirmed that Doogue had in fact claimed the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy, he was understandably delighted.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it’s nice. It wasn’t really one of my goals this week, I just wanted make the match play and see what happens, but to say that I’m leading qualifier is something that I’m really proud of,” he said.

The all-important cut mark continued to slide under the weight of the elements, and eventually fell at +12, and with eight on that number and only five spaces going, it was those who shot the lowest second round who advanced.

Edmondstown’s Patrick Curran, who was the last man standing in Wednesday’s qualifier after playing the final hole by torchlight, was again left sweating but squeezed in, as did 2023 semi-finalist Shane McDermott from the Slieve Russell.

Local favourite Thomas Finnegan wasn’t so fortunate, and he was one of the three to miss out on the countback rule.

There are some tasty matchups in tomorrow’s round of 64, with the all-Dublin affair of Jake Whelan of Grange Golf Club and Jack McDonnell or Royal Dublin arguably the pick of them.


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