Wilson wins in Monaghan as O’Rourke leads Irish contingent

Bernie McGuire

England’s Oliver Wilson secured his second win of the season in the Monaghan Irish Challenge while Conor O’Rourke was the leading home player at Concra Wood.

Wilson finished two shots clear of the field on 12 under par following a final round 69. The 2008 Ryder Cup star was victorious at the Swedish Challenge in August and is now inside the top 15 on the European Challenge Tour rankings.

“It was hard work today,” said Wilson after another demanding round in bitterly cold conditions. “It was an absolute grind. I knew it was going to be tough. Delighted to come through it.”

The 38-year-old began the final round tied for the lead with Sweden’s Niklas Lemke but three birdies in his first four holes put him in pole position. Once ahead, Wilson did not relinquish his lead, playing the back nine in level par to land the title.

The Christy O’Connor Junior Memorial Trophy for the leading Irish player went to Conor O’Rourke, who shot 70 to finish on level par, edging out Ruaidhri McGee (72) and Paul McBride (74) by virtue of his superior fourth round score.

After the disappointment of Saturday’s third round 76, O’Rourke bounced back on the final day to claim a cheque for €1,602, his share of 23rd place and his best result on the European Challenge Tour.

“It’s not beyond the realm of belief that I can win one or two of these things,” said O’Rourke, 27, after his round. “Other than yesterday, I would have been right up there.”

Playing on an invite from Team Ireland Golf this week, the Kildare man was well placed on two under at halfway but went backwards on moving day, shooting 76. Disappointed with his attitude during that penultimate round, O’Rourke looked the part in round four.

“My long game was as good as it has been all week and I just made a couple more putts,” O’Rourke explained. “You have to find a way to score a bit better or else you’re just going home on Fridays.”

Beginning on the back nine, patience was required during a run of eight straight pars but O’Rourke finally made some ground with a birdie on 18. He followed up with another birdie at the first, his 10th, and after dropping a shot at number six, he made amends at the next, holing from five feet.

Par saves from eight feet and seven feet on his closing holes ensured that O’Rourke finished as leading Irish player ahead of McGee, whose closing 72 left him with mixed feelings.

“If I had done the simple things well I would easily have been up there,” McGee, 27, reflected. “I had three or four bogeys in the middle of the round that were just stupid bogeys from the edge of the green. It’s frustrating.”

After opening with a birdie, McGee found himself three over through 10 but he rallied on the back nine, making four birdies in five holes from the 12th, to post 72.

Although recording his best result as a professional, Dubliner Paul McBride felt frustrated after posting 74.

“I’m not happy with the score but I didn’t play too bad,” said McBride, 22. “I got off to a good start and then two stupid three-putts on four and nine. I missed two three-footers and that set me back.”

After his error at the ninth, McBride made four bogeys in a row but continued to grind and was rewarded with birdies at 13 and 15.

Gavin Moynihan (73) and Kevin Phelan (76) were next best of the Irish players at one over, tied for 31st. Niall Kearney (75) finished on plus three, tied for 50th, and Neil O’Briain (78) was tied 55th on seven over.

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