Damien McGrane got his PGA in Ireland tournament season straight into gear on Thursday claiming the BMW Eastern Open at St Anne’s Golf Club.
The reigning Irish PGA Champion, turned in level par on a blustery day at St Anne’s Golf Club with two birdies and two drop shots on his front nine but carded a flawless three birdies on his back nine to return a 68 on Bull Island.
The three under par total was enough to tie the 68 posted by Old Conna’s Donal Gleeson earlier in the morning and a sudden death playoff was needed to decide the victor of the opening event of the PGA season.
In windy conditions McGrane took the aggressive choice off the tee hitting driver and finding the right side of the fairway while Gleeson opted for a rescue from the tee which he blocked right into heavy rough. From a heavy lie Gleeson muscled his approach to just off the right side of the 18th green while McGrane, nearly 60 yards further down, punched his approach into 20 foot.
Gleeson played a great chip leaving himself five foot for par while McGrane’s birdie attempt just burned the edge of the hole. The Old Conna man then failed to convert his par attempt leaving McGrane to tap in a short putt to claim the opening event of the season.
“It’s a nice way to kick off my season” said McGrane. “It was nice to hit two solid shots and a good putt in the playoff. I played ok today the course played fairly difficult in that cross wind which made it tough to score. I missed a few short ones but holed my fair share too so all in all I am very happy. I actually performed slightly better than I expected to be honest which does not happen very often on a golf course for me. It’s the start of a long season and it gives me nice encouragement to go out there and stick at it”
It wasn’t all disappointment for Gleeson who was happy to be back competing after an injury layoff late last season.
“I played very solid today and was very happy with my game especially after the surgery and injuries over the winter. Unfortunately all the hanging around for the playoff didn’t work in my favour but not to worry it’s great to be back out competing”
As well as overcoming injury during the winter it was a promising start to the season for Gleeson who also changed equipment manufacturer. “I really do have to say thanks to all the team at Titleist and Keith Bardon and Adrian Hawe at FootJoy. For me it’s great to come back to Titleist, they are a fantastic brand and so supportive to the club professional which I am and I really appreciate everything from them. Also the members at Old Conna and my sponsor Gerry Ryan from DGC Capital” added Gleeson “the support I have got from everybody through injury has been great and I hope this is the start of a great season for me”
The Eastern Open at St Anne’s Golf Club also marked a return to golf sponsorship on the Irish PGA circuit for BMW Ireland and it’s an event they hope to make an annual occurrence.
“For many years BMW has been synonymous with professional golf worldwide and we are now excited about supporting the home-grown talent in Ireland through our sponsorship of this new and exciting event.” Said Tony Casey from BMW Ireland. “It’s great to get 60 plus of the best PGA Professionals in the country here to battle it out. Its fantastic that BMW have a link with the PGA in Ireland and the UK but over the past few years we felt the presence was not as it should have been in Ireland so BMW are delighted to launch this event and hopefully it will grow from strength to strength into the future.” Added Casey
The next event on the PGA in Ireland schedule is the PGA Irish Club Professional Tournament at Dromoland Castle on May 3rd to 5th.
Gallery from the day – all images are copyright of Irish Golfer Magazine