Saturday’s Big Day Out at Lurgan signalled the end of the Winter League but almost certainly not the end of winter, as the March Medal and other early season competitions are often contested amidst snow flurries and strong winds.
Ian Mulholland took top prize with 33 points off 12. Having struggled a little with his game since the start of the year, his last two rounds have produced signs which suggest a welcome good run has begun. On Saturday he was level par after the 11th only for four consecutive bogeys to threaten his winning position, but a nett birdie at the last propelled him to the top of the leaderboard.
The low section went to Aidan Thornbury who went level par on the way home to score 30 points off 9. Paul McCabrey took second with 29 points helped by birdies at 14th and 18th.
Although David Elmore double bogeyed the 3rd, he immediately followed it with a birdie and suffered no further setbacks as he strode to 29 points off 9 and took third.
Gary Clarke added yet another gross prize to his collection with a level par round made up of birdies at the 1st and 12th, bogeys at the 2nd and 5th and pars everywhere else.
Paul Lavery is very much in form at the moment and must be preparing himself for another crack at the Golfer of the Year trophy which he threatened to win with ease a couple of years ago. His round on Saturday was halved between birdies and bogeys to take the middle section with 32 points off 12. Big hitting Conor Wilson opened and closed his round with birdies to come 2nd with 32 points off 10. Noel Stewart was confidently striding to glory until he realised he was 6 under his handicap on the 15th tee. This realisation induced an inevitable panic which led to a triple bogey 7 and an eventual third with 31 points off 11.
Gerard Marner has had to sit and watch recently as regular playing partner Johnny McEvoy has covered himself in glory almost every time he plays. Saturday was Gerard’s day however as his 31 points, off 18, gave him the high section and his first prize of the year. No Winter League goes by without crack of dawn golfer Bill Leslie getting into the mix and there he was again on Saturday with 30 points to claim third prize. If only he could have avoided a triple bogey at the short 8th, although I suppose it could be called the long, short 8th during the winter.
The overall section prizes were keenly contested right to the end with John Hartnett (125pts) taking the low section, Brendan Courtney (132pts) the middle and Tiago Souto (128pts) the high.
The Hanna Banana Shootout was held for those who had qualified by virtue of their performances over the league to date. Top prize here went to Aidan Thornbury with 32 points to top off a very successful winter campaign.
The low section went to Gary Clarke with 28 points, middle to Conor McAvoy with 31 points and high to Tiago Souto with 31 points.
If the Academy Awards had extended to Lurgan Golf Club then it would have been almost certain the Oscar for best performances over the winter would have gone to Hugh (Rory) O’Reilly.
Although his first winter outing last October, with 7 bogeys and 7 NR’s, yielded a meagre 16pts, he closed his winter campaign on Wednesday with triple that score, a massive 48pts. His top 5 Wed Sweep scores have averaged 41pts while his last four Seniors’ Opens have seen returns of 41-40-43-41.
Those last two scores total 84pts. Congratulations to Hugh on his outstanding performances over the last few months and best wishes for the incoming season.