In the second of our three part Review of 2016 at National level, John Manning focusses on three consecutive weekends in the month of July but three that did much to crown all of National Strokeplay winners at adult level!
Shotgun starts were a feature of the National O-55s Strokeplay championships at Fermoy in July. William Sheridan (Bellewstown) won the Gents Senior Grade Championship. His 36 hole aggregate 90 was the best winning score in the history of the competition, breaking his own record from two years ago at Gaeil Colmcille. Sheridan is now the third two-time winner of the championship, emulating Anthony Malone and Pat Greene. Sean Minogue (Riverdale) finished runner-up 21 years after he won the Inter County with Tipperary. Breda Lonergan’s 98 meant that the Tipperary Hills player clinched the National Ladies O-55s Strokeplay championship at her maiden attempt. To date, Breda is the only Tipperary player to win the National Ladies O-55s senior grade Strokeplay and she is the first Munster champion since 2006. Breda finished just two shots clear of Maree O'Toole who added a second place in the National O-55s Senior Strokeplay Championship to two previous runner-up finishes in the National Ladies Strokeplay championship.
There were some other notable feats at Fermoy. Mary Murray's eight par under 100 was the lowest ever winning score in the National O-55s Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay - by 10 shots! Mary’s winning margin of 14 shots was the biggest ever in the history of the National Ladies O-55s championships. Dina Dillon's 117 aggregate was the all-time best winning score in the Ladies Junior Championship. The St. Bridgets member became the sixth Kildare Ladies’ junior winner in 13 years. Charlie Egan's (Erin’s Isle) score of 93 is a new all-time record scoring aggregate for the Gents Intermediate Championship. Christy Hannon finished runner-up in the National O-55s Intermediate championship for the second successive year. Martin Verbeek's (Lough Owel) 103 total tied the best ever aggregate for the National 0-55s Gents Junior Strokeplay Championship. Martin was also the first Dutch native to win the junior gents championship and he was the first Westmeath club member to win the National O-55s Gents Junior Strokeplay Championship. Rochfortbridge's Charlie McHugh completed a Westmeath 1-2. 2016 was also the fourth consecutive year in which the three National Gent’s O-55s Strokeplay Champions represented Leinster clubs.
Just a week after their Fermoy heroics, Breda Lonergan and Mary Murray made history by winning the National Ladies Senior Strokeplay and National Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay respectively, becoming the first players to win those titles and the equivalent Over 55 graded championships in the same year. Breda Lonergan’s 153 tally at St. Stephen’s may have been the highest successful aggregate since seven under par made the Lakewood play-off in 2003. However it was good enough for a three shot win from a distinguished group of four players. Marian Byrne Courtney survived that logjam on six under to become the 11th multiple runner-up in National Ladies Strokeplay Championship history. Four of those eleven have not won the title. Ger Ward finished fifth on the countback having qualified yet again for the final round. She has made 16 cuts in a row since 2001.
Breda now ties Margaret Hogan's (1977-2006) record for the longest span (29 years) between a first and most recent winning appearance in the National Ladies Strokeplay. Breda won the championship in Athgarvan back in 1987 and is the eleventh multiple victor in history. Breda was also the first Munster player in 24 years to win the National Ladies Strokeplay Championship. Mary Murray has been second and third in the National Intermediate Strokeplay in the past but made no mistake in 2016 with 174 at St. Stephen’s to be the first Rocklodge winner since 1984. Mairead Manning is the second player in-a-row and the fourth in 10 years to win the National Ladies Junior Strokeplay over her home course. Her 177 total confirmed Mairead as the first member of St. Stephens to win a national individual adult title.
Liam O'Donovan's 86 at Tullamore tied the all-time record for the opening 36 at the National Strokeplay championship, which was set by John Walsh at Ryston in 2010. The new champion’s 54 hole 130 aggregate broke the all-time scoring record for the National Gents Strokeplay championship by two shots. The Bruff star qualified for the National Strokeplay championship final round for the seventh time. Liam became the fourth three-time winner of the National Gents Strokeplay, joining Sean Downes and Kevin Rogers just a single victory behind Ray Murphy who heads the all-time Roll of Honour. O’Donovan finished seven strokes clear of Tullamore’s own Darren O’Connell whose previous national podium finish came with Best Gross in the 2010 National Mixed Foursomes with Margaret Hogan. That seven shot margin equals the widest in history, which was originally set by Sean Downes at Royal Meath in 2005. 2011 National Matchplay champion Damien Fleming (Deerpark) has now been second (2012) and third (2016) in the National Strokeplay championship. John Ross Crangle has now been second (2015), third (2014) and fourth (2016) in the National Strokeplay.
In Tullamore, John Walsh of Collins qualified for the National Strokeplay championship final round for the ninth year in a row. Walsh, who defends his World Strokeplay title in Norway next July, has finished in the top six in the National Strokeplay in each of the three recent Tullamore stagings (fifth in 2003, fourth in 2008 and sixth this year). Dayle Donohoe fired 141 to join Chris Scannell, Donal Long and Darren Collins as National Intermediate Strokeplay champions who were also National Matchplay Runners-Up. Dayle has achieved that in reverse order to the other three and is the first member of St. Patricks to win the National Gents Intermediate Strokeplay Championship. Donohoe is the first player to win the title and be National Matchplay runner-up in the same year.
Ashley Lowry meanwhile was the 12th player to win the National Gents Junior Strokeplay championship over his home course after a three round score of 151. There have been five Tullamore winners of the National Ladies Junior Strokeplay but Ashley becomes the first winner of the National Gents Junior Strokeplay championship to play out of the Co. Offaly club. John Connolly is the first player to be second to a club-mate in the 22 stagings of the Championship since the National Junior Gents Stroke reverted to 54 holes in 1995.
Tomorrow: We conclude our Review of 2016 by looking at the stats behind the National Inter-County Championships and all other National events held in the past year.