FOTA ISLAND'S Thomas Hughes won the biggest prize in handicap golf on Sunday when he won the Muskerry Junior Scratch Trophy.
After a delay of a week, Hughes was crowned the winner after beating Liam Power in an exciting final.
It took him a qualifier and six rounds of golf to claim the win and he was delighted to completed the job.
“It was an incredible feeling to win on the 17th after 6 rounds. Physically and mentally it’s a tough competition to win so to finally get it done was excellent,” said Hughes after his win.
Thomas had his friend Derry Harte on the bag for the tournament and he also had the support of his Dad John all through Sunday.
As news of his performance spread early on Sunday morning, the numbers of Fota Island members swelled as they turned out to support their man.
“It was great to have Derry Harte on the bag, he’s very experienced and knows my game,” added Hughes.
His path to the title took involved five matches. After two wins on Friday, Hughes would take on two Muskerry players on Saturday.
He beat Richard Cahill in the third round and he was taken to the 19th hole in the quarter finals before he eventually beat Colin Sheehan.
In the semi-final Hughes faced another Muskerry golfer Barry Keane. The young home course player is the current holder of the Bruen Youths and in between the first four rounds and the semi-final he travelled to Galway to play in the Connacht Boys Championship.
Hughes got off to a good start and kept the pressure on before finally winning.
A former League of Ireland player with Cobh Ramblers, Hughes faced Lee Valley’s Liam Power in the final.
Power himself was a late qualifier, only getting into the matchplay stage on the day before the event.
He made the most of his opportunity winning his first four matches to qualify for a semi-final against Muskerry’s Mark O’Flynn.
At that stage the odds would probably have favoured the home players but as it happened both lost in the semi-finals.
The final started with a couple of halves but it was the Fota man who led after the opening nine and he was four up after the 12th.
Power mounted a comeback however and won the 13th and the 14th to cut the deficit in half.
In his years on the field for Cobh Ramblers Thomas probably learned how to perform under pressure and that was important as the final moved onto the final holes.
The par three 15th was halved in pars and the pair went on to half the 16th as well. With Hughes leading by two, Power needed to win the 17th. Both golfers split the fairway with impressive drives, but the nerves showed as neither managed a par.
The hole was halved and Hughes claimed the title after an epic battle.
Hughes was delighted with the win, and the way himself and caddy Derry Harte managed the round.
“I was able to get into a good lead but Liam made a good par on 13 and made birdie on 14 to close the gap.
" To be honest myself and Derry just kept concentrating on our own game and the things we could control.”
Although it was his first time taking part in the matchplay, it’s not surprising to hear that Thomas is a fan.
“It would be great if there were another few events like it. This was my first time in the matchplay.
"It’s a brilliant event and its very well run. The course was in excellent condition and very well presented.”
The event was back to its usual position in the early season with the matchplay scheduled for three days over Easter.
The first round matches on Good Friday were delayed by an hour due to frost but after that delay the first four rounds ran as scheduled.
Despite a very bad weather forecast for early on Easter Sunday morning, Tournament Director Brian Lane was hopeful that the final two rounds would be completed as scheduled.
Unfortunately for Brian, he was texting the final four at 7am on Easter Sunday to say the course was closed, but he was delighted with the feedback overall.
“It took a week longer than expected due to a deluge of rain Easter Sunday but we finally crowned a worthy winner in Thomas Hughes from Fota Island.
"He showed great composure to come through six rounds of gruelling matchplay. We got tremendous feedback from all competitors on the condition of the golf course over the two weekends, credit must go to Austin Browne and his staff for presenting a superb layout.
"A special thank you must go to Jason O'Callaghan of Ryan's SuperValu for their continued support of amateur sport in Cork, their involvement adds to what already is a prodigious competition.”