There was scarcely a free space on Saturday’s timesheet at Lurgan as over 200 golfers sought to claim an early mention among the prizes by competing in the eagerly anticipated March Medal, the traditional opening of the summer golfing season.
First to make his mark this year was David Elmore who convincingly took first prize with a very creditable nett 63, off 9.
Three over after 9 holes, birdies at the 12th, 13th and 15th left him level par on the 17th tee. This hole has become noted for throwing up late hiccups and such was the case again when a double bogey appeared and threatened to derail a winning march to the last, but a closing par was enough to claim what David will hope is the first of many victories over the season.
David O’Neill ensured he would be among the prizes for yet another golfing year when he took second with a nett 65 off 24.
Like the winner, he was on a march to victory when a double bogey again popped up at the 17th, but his was unfortunately sandwiched between two others for a disappointing end to an otherwise almost flawless round.
Vice Captain Ian Cousins took third with a nett 66 off 10. Six over at the turn can hardly have filled him with confidence for his homeward journey, but birdies at the 10th and 15th put a new spring into his step, only for bogeys at the 16th and 17th to cast a late gloom over his round.
The low section went to Tony Gallery with a nett 66, off 11. He was 6 under his handicap after 16 holes when a double bogey jumped up and bit him at the 17th leaving him to reflect on what might have been. His score was still good enough to edge the unlucky Timmy Cummins out of the prizes on the back 9.
The middle section went to Jim Kennedy with a nett 66, off 13. He can point to the par 5s for denying him greater reward as he ran up a double bogey at the relatively easy 4th, and his only dropped shots on the back 9 came with bogeys at the 15th and 18th.
Paul Lavery will be disappointed three double bogeys on the back 9 resulted in a prizeless nett 67. Hugh McCloskey will be recalling how his three double bogeys over the last 4 holes left him tantalisingly close with a nett 68, a score shared with Wilson Collins, who will still be wondering how a great round was spoiled by 5 bogeys over the last 6 holes.
Derek Johnston’s new year resolution must have been win, as he has done little else since January, and a nett 67, off 19, gave him the high section. While so many others came a cropper at the 17th, he birdied the hole to propel himself into the prizes yet again.
David Sutton rarely fails to produce the spectacular and he took the gross with a 67. Two over at the turn, he produced birdies at the 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th to come home in a brilliant 30 shots.
One of the unsung accolades of the year is the winner of the ‘Race to 10’.
There were some gallant attempts before this year’s winner was announced. Eddie Girvan played well for the most part, but his 10 came late in the round, at the 15th, and he finished out of contention. After a few months of relative mediocrity, no doubt brought about by his responsibilities as Winter League convenor, Terry McCrory returned to form on Wednesday with a magnificent 45pts. He began Saturday’s round with a birdie, but things very quickly went from bad to worse until his 10 came at the 14th, still not early enough to claim the accolade.
Conor McEvoy was 2 under his handicap after 7 holes, only for a triple bogey 6 at the 8th to be immediately followed by an 11. After starting with a couple of easy pars, Gary Totton could not have been prepared for the 10 he scored at the 7th.
But the winner of this year’s ‘Race to 10’ came as one of the biggest shocks in years. After a winter of champagne golf which brought him repeated reward, the ‘honour’ goes to Hugh O’Reilly with an 11 at the 6th. No matter how he plays, it seems Hugh just can’t keep out of the headlines.