Egan stands tall to become the 2024 Connolly Motor Group West of Ireland champion

Mark McGowan

Keith Egan - the 2024 Connolly Motor Group West of Ireland champion

Mark McGowan

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Carton House’s Keith Egan has had a long wait to get his hands on championship silverware, but he need wait no longer after beating Rosses Point native David Brady 3&2 in the final match of the 2024 Connolly Motor Group West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club.

Unseasonably warm weather and minimal winds greeted the finalists on the Rosses Point Peninsula and it was the perfect end to a week of superb golf with no shortage of shocks. And Brady was responsible for several of those himself, seeing off Hugh Foley in the round of 64 and another of the pre-tournament favourites in Matthew McClean in the quarter finals, but ultimately came up short in the final leg.

In truth, Egan was the player of the week, however, and a worthy champion. Having shot one of only two rounds in red figures on the second and final day of strokeplay – he also went bogey-free on that day, quite the accomplishment given the 30mph winds that swept across the northern shores of Sligo Bay – and he navigated the first five matchplay rounds without needing additional holes once and only trailed for a single hole.

Brady, who battled for 24 holes before finally seeing off Paul Coughlan in the semi-final earlier in the day, was responsible for trebling that tally when he took the lead in the final match on the third hole and held it until the fifth where an Egan birdie brought it back to all-square. From there, the Carton House man took control, winning six and seven to open up a two-hole advantage.

Brady struck back on nine to reduce the deficit to one, but Egan’s short game prowess was arguably the most impressive weapon in a well-stocked arsenal, and an excellent up-and-down on 10 restored the two-hole lead and then on the par-5 12th, Brady’s approach sailed long and left and though he had to take a penalty drop and was looking at par at best, Egan rolled in an eagle putt that must’ve been all of 40 feet to take a 3-UP lead.

Every time it looked as though the door may be ajar for Brady to strike back, Egan snuffed them out thanks to wedge and putter, and when they reached the 15th with the 3-UP advantage still intact, one final chip shot would set up a four-footer for par and championship after Brady had showed incredible resolve to hole a 15-footer of his own to force Egan to hole. But showing nerves of steel, he rolled it dead centre and claimed his first men’s championship title.

“It’s just an incredible tournament,” said Egan afterwards. “I’ve said this all week that it’s probably the most special one of the year, everyone I talked to, when they mentioned West of Ireland winners, it’s held in a different bracket. So, yeah, this is so special. Hasn’t even sunk in yet.

“My goal over the last few years is just winning championships and I got close in 2019 at the South and that has really haunted me since just in terms of how I handled the whole situation. And then I was very determined this week because I knew I was playing pretty well and I know the course and I knew I had the grit to come out on top here.”

Grit is exactly what was needed, particularly as the 31-year-old faced a long wait between matches as the Brady versus Paul Coughlan semi-final became a marathon 24-hole affair.

“Yeah, it’s actually quite a miserable time,” he said when asked of the difficulty in maintaining focus when you’re not sure exactly when you’ll get your final match underway, “because you’re not sure whether to spend it by yourself or spend it with your club mates that have come up to watch you or to spend it with your friends or whatever.

“I just tried to spend time by myself to remind myself like what I’m doing and then just go back to sticking to my process and then get some practice in because at the end of the day, like this is so early on in the year that we’re all still trying to find some form as well.”

Egan’s last Championship final appearance came at Lahinch in the South of Ireland Championship in 2019 and, as he’d mentioned previously, he’d been haunted by that defeat but wasn’t about to make the same mistakes again.

“I was playing probably as good, if not better than I, than I ever have in that tournament [at Lahinch], but I didn’t putt well at all during the whole tournament, which is generally my strength, and I just got a little bit anxious and I just kind of lost my focus a little, that’s mainly what kind of annoyed me about it,” he said, adding that he’d gained experience and altered his mid-day approach today.

And though he was battling a local and had most of the crowd against him, he does have family connections to the area and had his own pockets of support, both from Carton House and Royal Curragh where he was originally a member, and from areas closer to Rosses Point.

“Yeah, my mother’s from Strandhill,” he said, “and my cousin John McHugh was the captain here in 2020. I’ve been coming up here for years on holidays or just coming up to play Strandhill or here with my dad. So this is special, this is so special.”

Also present at the prizegiving ceremony, along with Egan and Brady, was Castleknock’s Mark Doogue who was the recipient of the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy as leading qualifier and the only man to break par across 36 holes of strokeplay on Friday and Saturday.

Castleknock’s Mark Doogue, winner of the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy as leading strokeplay qualifier

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