In the first part of our Review of the Year, John Manning looks at the significance of this year’s results in the National Matchplay Championships as well as the Senior Gents and Senior Ladies National Strokeplay Championships.
LEINSTER players broke the stranglehold of their southern counterparts in the National Gents Individual championships, for 2017 at least. John Ross Crangle’s overdue National Matchplay success and Mark Millar’s return to the national zenith, this time in the Strokeplay, mean that both trophies reside in Leinster for the first time since 2003.
John Ross Crangle becomes the ninth player in history to win the National Gents Matchplay having previously been runner-up (six other players have been runner-up in the National Gent's Matchplay after they had previously won the championship). John Ross has now contested four National Matchplay championship semi-finals. His record is W2 L2.
JR also became the first National Gents Matchplay Champion from Dublin since 2003, by beating Ray Murphy 3&2 in the Tipperary Hills final. A three-time National Championship runner-up he is the first Loughlinstown player to win the National Gents Matchplay championship and the 13th winner to represent a Dublin club. Ray Murphy contested his eighth National Matchplay final in June. His only previous defeat in a final was against Darren Collins in 2005 and thus became the ninth multiple losing finalist in National Matchplay Championship history.
John Walsh (Collins) has now contested eight National Matchplay Championship Semi-Finals. His record is won six and lost two. Bryan Delaney (Fermoy) has played in three National Matchplay Championship Semi-Finals. His win percentage is 33%.
Ger Ward meanwhile has now achieved the National Ladies Matchplay/Strokeplay double on three occasions, one less than Clare Keating. However, the Portmarnock legend’s inexorable march beyond her Cork rival of a past generation continues in all other aspects. Ger wrapped up her 11th National Matchplay championship success with a 2&1 final victory over Chrissie Byrne (Ryston) at Tipperary Hills.
After what was the third final between the pair, Ger's 33-year (1984-2017) gap between her first and most recent win in the Matchplay lengthens her existing record. Chrissie Byrne has now been National Ladies Matchplay runner-up on three occasions, the same mark as her sister Marian and Tara Dillon. 2017 represented the 14th time that the National Ladies Matchplay has been retained by the holder.
Lakeside’s Martha O'Brien reached her first National Ladies Matchplay Semi-Final in the 2008 National Girls Strokeplay Champion's best outing in the Matchplay. Tara Dillon’s 6&4 reverse against her friend Chrissie Byrne in the Semi-Finals was the 2008 champion’s first-ever defeat in her five National Matchplay last four appearances.
2017 saw a Leinster double in the National Gents and Ladies Matchplay championships for the first time since Lucan 2003 - Darren O'Reilly and Chrissie Byrne. It was also a Dublin double for the first time since Glenville 1994 - Derek Courtney and Ger Ward. More illustrations of the Portmarnock star’s enduring influence.
Mark Millar became the 12th player ever to claim both the National Gents Strokeplay and National Gents Matchplay titles. After his 133 tour de force around Hillview in July, Mark is the first Leinster player to win the National Gents Stroke on Munster soil since Niall Cuffe at Fermoy 18 years ago back in 1999. A 2000 and 2001 National Matchplay Champion Mark also became the first Leinster winner of the National Gents Strokeplay Championship since Eddie Carey in 2010.
Mark, whose previous best in the Championship was third in Millennium year, is the first Cement member to win the National Gents Strokeplay championship since Peter McGuinness at Cement in 1986. Three national individual titles put Mark Millar in the exalted company of Kevin Rogers, Liam O'Donovan, Gus Carolan, Joe Doyle, Sean Harkins, Joe Fitzgerald and David Hayden.
Stephen Shoer became the first former National Intermediate Strokeplay Champion to earn a second place in the senior event after his 134 came up a single shot short. Damien Fleming finished third in the National Gents Strokeplay Championship for the second successive year. Having qualified for the final round for the sixth time in a row and for the eleventh time in all, Damien produced his lowest ever score (136) in the National Strokeplay Championship and finished in the Top Six for the sixth time.
Position-wise Paul O’Brien's fourth place is his best-ever showing in the National Gents Strokeplay championship. Paul's 139 at Hillview equaled his previous best 54-hole score in the National Gents Stroke - his 139 at Fermoy in 1999. Paul qualified for the National Gents Strokeplay Championship final round for the eighth time in all and for the first time since 2011.
Geraldine Ward scored a steady 152 around Cement to scale the National Ladies Strokeplay summit for the ninth time, which extends her lead at the top of the Roll of Honour. She has now won 20 national individual Pitch & Putt Championships, a remarkable record. Ger has placed in the Top Five in each playing of National Ladies Strokeplay Championship since 2010 and has qualified for the National Ladies Strokeplay final round every year since 2001 (that's 17 cuts made in a row).
With two silver medals during the 2017 season, Chrissie Byrne has now been runner-up in five national individual ladies’ championships, the same mark as her sister Marian. Tara Dillon was the last player before 2017 to place second in the Matchplay and Strokeplay in the same year (2014). In all, the same player has finished runner-up in the Ladies Matchplay and Ladies Strokeplay in the same year on eight occasions. After her 154 effort in Drogheda, Chrissie becomes the 13th multiple runner-up in National Ladies Strokeplay championship history. Ger Ward first and Chrissie Byrne second mirrors the result of the 2004 National Ladies Strokeplay championship at St. Bridgets.
2016 runner-up Marian Courtney scored 155 to finish in the top three of the National Ladies Strokeplay championship for the second successive year. 2016 champion Breda White was next on 156 and has now finished in the top four of the national Ladies Strokeplay championship in each of the last four years.
Come Convention meanwhile Ger Ward will receive the PPUI National Ladies No 1 ranked Player of the Year award for the 10th time. John Walsh has now won the Gents equivalent on eight occasions.
Tomorrow: We look further into a long and busy month of action in July
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