The early bird catches the worm, and such was the case at Lurgan Golf Club on Saturday when crack-of-dawn golfer Martin McNeice had already tucked away the Lurgan Mail Trophy with 42 points while some of the other competitors were still in bed.
Birdies at the 4th, 6th and 9th set him up nicely and although he was to throw in an unwelcome double bogey at the 16th, he held on for victory. He also realised his long-cherished dream of being reduced to a single figure handicap and is surely hoping to replicate on the golf course those glory days of his football career, if he can remember back that far.
Second place went to another early morning golfer, Hugh McCloskey, with 41 points off 19. He played very steadily for 15 holes and was in a winning position but a 6-3-7 finish denied him outright victory. Such has been his form of late that it is very likely he will not have long to wait until another winning chance presents itself.
Paul McConaghy has had his handicap cut three times in the last fortnight so it was little surprise when he took third place with 40 points off 10. He was 5 over par after 14 holes and a birdie at the 16th left him in a very strong position indeed, but a disastrous double bogey 5 at the 17th left him stunned. He composed himself to birdie the last and salvage something from the wreckage.
Alex Denver is currently in the middle of a remarkable run of form and he took the gross with 34 gross points. His handicap has been cut three times in his last four outings and now stands at 4.5. A run of three consecutive birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th came at just the right time and put him on course for another great round.
The low section went to Mark O’Neill with 40 points off 12. He will still be beating himself up about his failure to score at the 17th where a par would have given him outright victory. Also on 40 points but just missing out on a prize was the very in-form Brian Clarke. He was just 1 over after 12 and will be disappointed with a closing run of six bogeys.
Matt Cummins made a welcome return to the prizes when his 38 points off 17 gave him victory in the middle section. No scores at the 3rd and 9th must have left him bereft of hope at the turn, but an opening birdie on the back 9 put the spring back into his step and he went on to run up 21 homeward points despite a double bogey at the 17th.
David O’Neill served notice on Wednesday that he was returning to his best when he returned 37 points and on Saturday he bettered that by one to list the high section. Inspired by his playing partner Paul McConaghy, who was also in the prizes, (or was Paul inspired by David?), he played almost flawlessly to lift his first prize in a while.
One thing of note on Saturday was the number of players in contention who came a cropper at the 17th with double bogeys or worse. Perhaps the new 17th is becoming the new ‘Waterloo’ for the members.
Patsy Haughey Memorial Trophy: 1. Nathan McCann 42pts; 2. Anselm Henry 41pts; 3 Colin McKee 40pts.
Ladies August Medal results: 1. Dee Farrell nett 71 bb9; 2. Nuala Beatty nett 71.
Juvenile Captain’s Day: 1. Ruairi McConville 41pts bb9; 2. Zach Best 41; 3. Daniel Magee 40 pts.
Gross: Coalan McCann 40.