KINSALE’S Kieran McCarthy beat a field of young guns to claim his 20th senior scratch cup win.
A four-under par back nine from the Kinsale member saw him sign for a 66 and got him into a play-off with Irish International John Murphy, with the seasoned campaigner McCarthy winning on the fourth play-off hole.
Kinsale hosted the first scratch cup of the year on a firm and fast course, which met with approval from everyone. The fine weather made for a great day in Kinsale and that was a big factor in attracting an unusually large crowd of spectators.
While many were following the group of John Murphy, Peter O’Keeffe, Cathal Butler and Paul Buckley, the spectators were spread around the course watching the fine golf on display.
That marque group had a combined handicap of +12 signalling the strength of the group, and it was expected that the winner would emerge from the fourball.
Murphy led the way and he was five-under through the first nine holes. McCarthy, a three-time winner in Kinsale came good on the back nine. He came home in 31 strokes (four under par) to tie for the lead.
Although Murphy dropped a shot on the 15th to go to four under, he bounced back on the closing holes and carded a course record 66.
As leader in the clubhouse along with the course record he knew McCarthy was holding a score. He too signed for a course best 66 and the pair were head for a three-hole play-off.
The pair couldn’t be separated on the first, second or third so they headed for the tough fourth hole for sudden death.
Both golfers hit the green but when Murphy’s tricky par putt sneaked past the hole, the title was McCarthy’s. Third place went to Cathal Foley with a 70, Peter O’Keeffe, David Howard and Paul Tobin all finished with 71’s.
McCarthy was delighted with the win, coming back from a slow start.
“It started off sluggish, one birdie, one bogey in the first six holes and then birdied eight and nine to turn on two-under,” explained McCarthy.
“John was playing in front of me so I heard he eagled nine to go five or six under so I knew I was playing for second place basically.
“Things started to turn around on the back nine and I came back in 31. John faltered a little bit and I just managed to catch him.
“On the 14th I hit it to about 10 or 15 feet. I heard that John was on the 15th and he had bogied it to go to four under.
“I held the putt on 14 to go to six under so I knew I was two ahead.”
Despite the earlier birdies, it was steady par golf in the play-off that kept McCarthy in contention and eventually led to his win on the fourth hole.
While Murphy was disappointed on missing out on the title, he has been enjoying his golf since the courses re-opened in May.
The Louisville senior put together a string of impressive scores in the 60s and saw his handicap move to +6, one of the lowest playing handicaps in the country.
He shot a 64 in Lee Valley two weeks ago and last week he shot a 10 under par 62. His course record 64 in Kinsale was followed by a 63 last Thursday.
While it wasn’t championship level golf, it will have proved to Murphy that his game is still strong despite the disruption of the past five months.
On Monday he returned to the US, knowing he’d be unlikely to play any more golf in Europe in 2020.
His return was just a matter of time as last month he confirmed that he would return to Louisville for another year following the cancellation of the end of the 2020 NCAA season including the regionals and nationals.
The Irish international had targeted the regional and national finals after posting two regular-season wins that saw his world ranking.
The early return to America will allow Murphy to compete in several important events including the US Amateur which will be held in Bandon Dunes in August.
His first event in the US is likely to be the Western Amateur in Crooked Stick next week.
The USGA are planning to hold a full schedule of championships which will give Murphy access to top-level competition before the NCAA college season resumes in October.
Having made the initial training panel for the 2019 Walker Cup, John will no doubt be looking at the 2021 staging which takes place in Florida in May.
Murphy has also secured a place in the field for the PGA Tour Byron Nelson Classic also in May. Murphy secured the PGA Tour start when he won the Byron Nelson Award for college seniors last month.
The local action continues this weekend with the matchplay phase of the Muskerry Ford Junior Scratch Trophy.
The 64 qualifiers start the first round on Friday morning and the eventual finalists will play the sixth round on Sunday afternoon in a marathon of golf over three days.