Dundalk Golf Club.
Neal MacKell (4) scored the biggest win of his career on Sunday when he won the Dundalk Junior Scratch Cup and now hopes he doesn’t have to defend it.
MacKell, with an exact handicap of 3.5, only just qualified to play in the 36 hole competition where he was the lowest player in the field and his scores of 71 and 76 were enough to see him lose a shot and move into the senior ranks where he hopes to stay for the next few years.
“It is the first trophy I have won so I am absolutely delighted, but I hope I won’t be back to defend it next year as I now want to establish myself as a senior player,” said MacKell.
A top quality field of 87 entered this year’s Junior Cup, with 65% of the field coming from 15 other clubs, but it was the home players who dominated the podium with the evergreen Clem Walshe (4) and Shane Hession (5) filling the top three spots.
MacKell got off to the perfect start in his morning round with back to back birdies on the opening holes and stayed at two under until he bogeyed the seventh having got up and down from 80 yards after being in trouble down the left.
Another bogey on the ninth saw him turn level and a birdie at the 10th was followed by a bogey at the 11th. Birdies at the 14th and 15th followed but a three-putt at the par three 17th saw him drop a shot and he had to get up and down out of a greenside bunker on the final score before signing for a one-under-par 71.
That left him one shot ahead of Walshe who had rolled back the years with an excellent round of 72, but his challenge faltered on the opening nine of his second round and he was unable to take advantage as MacKell dropped three shots on his way to the turn.
A birdie at 10 steadied MacKell and although he handed it back at the next hole he did produce back to back birdies at the 14th and 15th and stood at level par on the 18th tee, five shots ahead of Walshe who had finished with a 77 for 149.
A drive down the middle left MacKell 110 yards to the flag but he pulled his gap wedge left and then dumped a flop shot into a bunker on the far side of the green. He splashed out to 10 feet from the sand but then missed his putt and tapped in from a seven.
“I didn’t know how I stood at that point and I really thought I had blown it because I knew Clem wasn’t too far behind. I was very relieved when I found out I’d hung on to win,” said MacKell, who signed for a second round score of 76 and a final total of three over par 147.
After opening with a 79, Hession produced an excellent one-under par 71 to finish three shots behind on 150 with Francis Cheny (4) from St Anne’s two shots further back on 152.
It’s been a good week for Hession who won Wednesday’s Open Singles Stableford competition with a fine score of 38pts to edge out Anthony McGuinness (21) on countback.
On the team front, it has been a disappointing week for Dundalk with three defeats although the JB Carr Diamond Trophy team still have a slim chance of advancing when they travel to Greenore on Friday for the second leg of the Louth final. In last week’s home leg Dundalk lost two matches on the 18th, one at the 16th and the remaining two at the 15th, That leaves then trailing 0-5 but they will give it their all in trying to haul that deficit back. The squad is O. Reilly, G. Murray, C. Monahan, T. Reneghan, K. Barry, P. Donaghy, P. Duffy, P. Hoey, M. Coburn, T. Clarke, G. Daly, E. Sheridan, F. Byrne.
The boys U18 team’s hopes of winning back to back Leinster pennants in the Fred Daly Trophy ended on Sunday when they lost 3-2 to The Island.
Ciarán Johnston lost 4&3 while Óisín Conroy was beaten 6&5 in The Island meaning that Dundalk had to win the three home matches to advance.
Josh Mackin put the first Dundalk point on the board in the second match when he closed it out on the 13th for a 6&5 victory having been five up after nine. Ahead of him, Eoin Murphy had a battle on his hands but he won the 15th and 16th to take control of his match and eventually took it 2&1.
The bottom match in Dundalk then became the decider and it was eventually decided on the 18th when Sean Lavery lost out to a par after a tremendous battle with his Dublin opponent.
The annual captain’s Charity Day will take place on Bank Holiday Monday, June 4, in aid of the Birches. There will be an open singles in the morning and a mixed foursomes in the afternoon and all members are encouraged to enter and bring a guest with them for what will be a great day on and off the course.
Sunday, May 20 – Dundalk Junior Scratch Cup: 147 - Neal MacKell (4) (71/76). 149 - Clem Walshe (4) 149 (72/77). 150 - Shane Hession (5) 150 (79/71). 152 - Francis Cheney (4) (St Anne’s) 152 (78/74). Best Nett: Dean Mulligan (6) (Greenore) 142 (72/70). First 18 Gross: Eoghan McKenna (5) 75. First 18 Nett: Aidan Thornton (8) 72. Second 18 Gross: Declan Hughes (5) (Fort William) 74. Second 18 Nett: Dillon Greene (6) 70. First Round CSS: 74 Home, 75 Away. Second Round CSS: 74 Home, 75 Away.
Wednesday, May 16 – Open Singles Stableford – Overall: Shane Hession (5) 38/19pts. Category 1: Josh Mackin (1) 36pts. Category 2: Donal Curran (12) 37pts. Category 3: Anthony Mc Guinness (21) 38pts. Best Gross: Josh Mackin (1) 35pts. CSS: 73/35pts.