THE magnificent Sandy Hills course at Rosapenna proved to be an historic setting for the visit of the North-Western Golf Alliance on Saturday last.
In fact, given the favourable weather conditions, one could readily imagine the greats of yesteryear - Old Tom Morris in 1891, James Braid and Harry Vardon in the early 1900’s and, more recently, designer Pat Ruddy - going around the ground they once trod being more than pleased with the condition of the course.
Indeed, those legends would also have been delighted with the problems that their creations posed for the modern day players who, with a few exceptions, were found wanting.
Sandy Hills examines all aspects of a golfers’ game, from the subtle borrows on the greens; the need for astute course management off the tee, and the elevated greens created by Ruddy making the choice of second or even third shots difficult to calculate in order to get the ball on the putting surfaces.
Saturday’s winner, following a break of tie, was North-West two handicapper, Justin MacLochlainn, who edged out local favourite, Enda Kennedy, the current holder of the Rosapenna Scratch Cup.
Justin has been a model of consistency this year without achieving the top position until now and this will make his victory all the sweeter. The very modest and self-effacing Buncrana man was 2 over after 2 and he dropped a further shot after the 5th and while Enda was 2 over after 2 he was 3 over after 7.
However, he then got into top gear with birdies at par five 8th another on the par four 9th and was really flying with his third consecutive birdie on the par four 10th . At this point he was back at level par.
Justin who finished the first nine on 3 over - as he had been after 5 - also birdied the 10th . However back at the 11th Enda had dropped two strokes courtesy of a three putt (in all he had 5 three puts). He birdied 14 just as Justin was back on level par with Enda one over.
And not to be out-done, Justine, carded an ugly double bogie on the 15th. They both dropped a stroke each over the last three holes.I In fact, it was only on count back that they could be separated.
The man in third place, City of Derry’s Jayson McIntyre, covered the outward nine in three over and the back nine in two over to be just the one shot behind Justin and Enda. However, the player who will sadly rue a triple bogey on the par four 12th was Charlie Doherty (North-West) who at that stage was but one over par. His game at this point had deserted him and he proceeded to bogey four of the last six holes. He eventually finished in sixth place.
Players representing Strabane dominated the nett category when taking the top five places and the winner, for the second outing in a row, was Kieran Doherty had the poorest of starts as the 6 handicapper had dropped four strokes on his handicap after four holes. He then proceeded to play superb golf and his only further blemishes centred on the two dropped shots on the last two holes.
Odran McGettigan, a Ballycolman clubmate, had it all to loose when he reached the 16th and a particularly ugly “9” at the par five 17th saw him lose out on a break of tie.
In the race for the Alliance “Golfer of the Year” with two more competitions to count, the following occupy the principal positions - in the Nett Category, Justin MacLochlainn is on 23 points with Odran McGettigan and Enda Kennedy both on 17.
In the Gross Category, Justin also leads the way on 36 points with Jayson McIntyre on 26 and Enda Kennedy, John Harding and Cathal Patton all on 19.
The next outing takes place this Saturday, February 26th, again in Rosapenna and there’s no doubt the members will return to the Downings course with renewed energy and determination to improve last weekend’s scoring.
Full results were - Outing to Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) - Nett Category - 1, break of tie, Kieran Doherty (6), Strabane, 71; 2, Odran McGettigan (24), Strabane, 71; 3, break of tie, Noel McCrory (16), Strabane, 75; 4, Ben Corry (4), Strabane, 75; 5, Cathal Patton (4), Strabane,. 75; 6, David McLaughlin (15), Portsalon, 75.
Gross Category - 1, break of tie, Justin MacLochlainn (2), North-West, 74; 2, Enda Kennedy (scr), Rosapenna, 74; 3, Jayson McIntyre (1), City of Derry, 76; 4, break of tie, Keelan Quigg (2), City of Derry, 79; 5, John Harding (3), North-West, 79; 6, Charlie Doherty (4), North-West , 79.
The following players carded “2’s” and will receive four balls each - M. McDermott, N. Callan, E. O’Carroll, K. Spence, M. MacLochlainn, Jnr., M. Feeney, S. McCay, M. Bradley, K. Quigg, N. McCrory, M. Doherty while Danny MacLoughlin had two “2’s.”