In the first of a three part look back on 2018, John Manning looks at the significance behind this year’s National Matchplay and National Strokeplay events.
Geraldine Ward’s dominance of Ladies Pitch & Putt continued in 2018 and shows no signs whatsoever of abating. Her wins at Tullamore and Collins meant that she is the first player since Clare Keating (in 1963 and 1964) to achieve the National Ladies Matchplay/Strokeplay double in successive years. The Portmarnock legend’s 10th reign at the top of the Ladies rankings at year end was thus a formality.
At Tullamore in June, Geraldine and Chrissie Byrne (Ryston) became the first players to contest two consecutive National Ladies Matchplay Finals, since Mildred Doyle and Margaret Hogan in the 1970s. Back then, they both went the way of the Dublin player and history repeated itself when Ger won a pulsating 2018 final by one hole – her third win in four finals against Chrissie. Ger thus became National Matchplay Champion for the 12th time, extending her lead at the top of the all-time Roll of Honour. Chrissie Byrne lost a second final in-a-row for the second time. Only Margaret Hogan has done that before and Chrissie will be hoping to avoid Margaret Hogan’s stat of three final losses in-a-row. Tara Dillon has also lost two deciders on the spin (2014 and 2015).
Ger has now completed the National Ladies Matchplay three-in-a-row on three separate occasions, ‘84-‘86, ‘92-94 and ‘16-18. Clare Keating and Teresa McGuigan are the only other players to accomplish a three-in-a-row. 1988 National Matchplay champion Eleanor Walsh (Fermoy) contested her eighth National Matchplay Semi-Final. Her record is W3; L5 while 1995 National Junior Strokeplay Runner-Up Ger Holland (RGSC) reached the Semi-Final stage for the second time in three seasons. Lakeside’s Elaine Quinn became the second Co. Tipperary player, after Breda White, to win a National Ladies Matchplay title after her 11&9 win over Annie Galvin (Tullamore) in the new National Nett Cup at Tullamore.
At Collins on July 1st in the National Senior Ladies Strokeplay Ger claimed claim her tenth title and consigned Chrissie Byrne (Ryston) to another second place in the National Ladies Strokeplay Championship. Chrissie was runner-up for the fourth successive time in a National Championship – that’s a first. Margaret Hogan was previously second three times running between 1982 and 1983. Ironically, Ger Ward was the last player to be Runner-Up in successive Strokeplay Championships (in 2005 and 2006). With her score of 105, Tara Dillon (Ryston) finished third in the National Ladies Strokeplay championship for the fourth time. She now has seven top three placings in the event. Siobhan Scannell (Collins) was fourth on 106.
Mairead Manning (St. Stephen’s) became the fifth player in history to win both the National Ladies Junior and Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay Championships when her 112 return at Collins clinched the 2018 Intermediate crown by just a stroke from three time Inter-County winner Vera McCarthy (Collins). Margaret Forde (Riverdale) fired 114 to replicate Mairead Manning's 2017 feat of finishing third in the National Intermediate Ladies Strokeplay championship a year after being crowned Junior Champion.
Phil Downey is the second member of Collins in five years (and the third in history) to win the National Ladies Junior Strokeplay Championship after her 118 gave Phil five strokes to spare over Elaine Quinn, the second Tipperary player in five years to take silver. Phil’s win in the National Ladies Junior Strokeplay championship came 15 years after she finished third in the Intermediate equivalent at Lakewood. 2016 Leinster Mixed Foursomes Runner-Up Audrey Donnelly (Cement) improved one place from last year's fourth to fill third position on 127.
Bryan Delaney (then playing out of Fermoy) became the 10th player in history to win the National Gent’s Matchplay having previously been Runner-Up when he defeated Ray Murphy by one hole. Ray Murphy is the fourth player in history, after Robbie McCarthy John O'Leary and Darren Collins, to lose two National Gents Matchplay Finals in-a-row. Bryan is top of the Gents ranking at year end after becoming the 13th player in PPUI history to win both the National Matchplay and the National Strokeplay. Deerpark’s John McGrath reached his first National Matchplay semi-final, six years after he reached the Munster Matchplay last four at Tipperary Hills while 2016 Irish Matchplay champion Shane Murphy (Raffeen Creek) reached the last eight of the event for the third successive year.
Damien Fleming (Deerpark) becomes the second Kerryman in history to be crowned National Gents Strokeplay Champion. It was also a second win for Kerry in the last seven renewals of the championship when Damien fired rounds of 52, 46 and 46 on a tricky Glenville course to finish just ahead of John Ross Crangle. Having been crowned Matchplay kingpin in 2011, Damien Fleming therefore became the 14th player in Pitch and Putt history to be a National Gents Strokeplay Champion and a National Gents Matchplay Champion.
John Ross Crangle's 144 secured a fifth podium finish (2nd, 3rd or 4th) in the last eight stagings of the National Gents Strokeplay championship. JR finished runner-up in the National Gents Strokeplay Championship for the third time, which moves the Loughlinstown man alongside TJ O'Riordan and joint second all-time behind John Walsh on that particular list. 2012 National Matchplay Champion Kevin McCarthy was third (on 147) in the National Strokeplay championship for the second time. Kevin previously took bronze at Rocklodge five years ago. On his first appearance in the final round, Glenville’s Joe Joyce is the 11th player from Leinster and the fourth from Dublin to clinch the fourth and final exempt slot in the National Gents Strokeplay championship since that system was introduced in 1995.
Michael Kirby and Michael Vaughan (Inniskeen) contested the eighth play-off in history for the National Gents Intermediate Strokeplay Championship - the first time extra holes were needed since 2014. Kirby survived the extra holes after the pair had been deadlocked on 161 following regulation play. Michael Vaughan is the first player ever to finish second in the National Gents Intermediate Strokeplay Championship twice in three years.
Kirby progressed from sixth place in last year's National Gent's Junior Strokeplay Championship at Hillview to be the first member of Larkspur Park to win the National Gents Intermediate Strokeplay. There was a certain poetic justice to Frank O'Brien's tiebreak route (162 with a superior final eighteen to CPM’s Barry Gorey) into third place. The Collins player lost out on second and third place via the back eighteen countback at Rocklodge five years ago.
John Byrne became the fourth Lucan member in history meanwhile to win the National Gents Junior Strokeplay Championship, a Championship Lucan players won three times in six years in the 1970s. Continuing the recent tradition of very tight margins in the Championship, John scored 174 to just edge out Stephen Behan (Laytown) and Sean O'Neill (Larkspur Park).
Tomorrow: We look back at the year in U-16 and Inter-County terms
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