Smith wins Women’s Senior Close Championship

 

Dundalk Lady Captain Alison Quigley pictured with the new Irish Women’s Senior Close champion Deirdre Smith following her return from the tournament in Thurles.

Deirdre Smith went one better than last year when she won the Women’s Senior Close Championship at Thurles last Friday.

After finishing as leading qualifier in Wesport in 2021, Smith had to settle for being runner-up to Carol Wickham after the Laytown & Bettystown player defeated her 3&2 in the final.

She headed to Thurles for this year’s event as one of the favourites and justified that tag when she led the qualifying phase after the first round following a one under par 72 and led by four from Tracey Eakin of Dooks.

But, in tough conditions on day two, the pair finished level on 152, five clear of the field, after Eakin shot a second successive 76 to Smith’s 80 and the Dundalk player had to settle for second seeding in the matchplay based on countback.

The top 16 qualified for the matchplay stages and Smith needed 36 holes to get to the semi-finals as she beat Clodagh Hopkins of Woodbrook and Maria O’Reilly of Headfort  on the last green in first round and quarter-finals respectively but those two stern tests proved extremely beneficial.

“I hung in throughout the day and played well on the back nine in both matches. I was three down in the two of them. I figured out what I was doing wrong in the afternoon and worked from there,” said Smith.

In the semi-final Smith beat Sheena McElroy of Grange 3&2 in the semi-final and qualified to meet the 2014 champion Laura Webb in the final after the Royal Portrush player had defeated Eakin on the 19th hole in her semi.

Smith was in superb form in the final as she took the lead on the third, and only lost one hole after that before she closed the match out on the 15th green for a 4&3 win and a well-deserved national title.

“I played my best golf of the week in the final,” Smith said after her win. “I was a bit slow in the first two days. I found something yesterday afternoon in my swing and brought it into today.

“I grew in confidence when the shots came. I knew I had to play really well to beat Laura because she is a really good player. It’s not often you play your best golf in the final but I’m delighted I did.”

Smith, who is also a member of Co Louth Golf Club, got a big welcome back when she returned to Dundalk having added the senior version of the Irish Close Championship to the title she won in 2004 when she beat Tara Delaney on the 20th hole of the final at The Island.

 

Dundalk golfers making their presence felt

Two of Dundalk’s most promising young golfers have earned call-ups to the Leinster team for this month’s U16 Inter-provincials in Tullamore where Leinster will be defending the title they won last year.

Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin will travel to the Offaly venue as provincial champions with Murphy having won the Munster U16 Championship in Nenagh while Mackin captured the Leinster title at Beaverstown last week.

Murphy produced an excellent two under par 70 to beat a field of over 140 players. He produced four birdies during his round and crucially was the only golfer to play the inward nine under par, which gave him a two shot win over Lahinch’s Jonathan Keane.

It was Murphy’s second major win of the season as earlier in the year he captured the All-Ireland Faldo Series and will head to the Grand Final in England later this year.

Mackin needed a four hole play-off against Robert Galligan of Elm Park to take the Leinster title. Both players finished on one under par 71 after 18 holes but Mackin came out on top in the play-off, winning by one shot.

Two other Dundalk golfers, Sean Laverty and Padraig Fallon, played in both championships.

The Leinster call-ups for Murphy and Mackin brings to four the number of Dundalk players capped at provincial level this season as Caolan Rafferty and Deirdre Smith have played in the men’s and women’s senior inter-pros respectively this year.

Smith was part of the Leinster team that finished second to Ulster in the women’s inter-pros at Slieve Russell. She formed a formidable foursomes partnership with Aedin Murphy and the pair recorded wins over Connacht and Munster. However, Smith was injured in her singles match against Munster’s Paula Grant, was forced to withdraw after 13 holes and played no further part in the tournament as Leinster just missed out on taking the title.

Rafferty went one better as Leinster’s men, captained by Greenore’s Seamus McParland, retained the All-Ireland Inter-Provincial title at Fota Island.

The Dundalk player formed an unbeaten partnership with Ardee’s Eugene Smith with the pair winning their foursomes matches against Connacht, Munster and Leinster.

Rafferty sank a birdie putt on the 16th to win their opening match against Connacht’s Sean Flanagan and Mark Morrissey 3&2. They then had a one hole win in the match against Munster’s Peter O’Keefe and Cathal Butler before recording a two hole victory over Ulster’s Stuart Beakley and Jordan Hood on the final day.

Raffterty was unable to carry that winning form into the singles matches where he suffered three defeats but the three points he earned from the foursomes certainly played a part in Leinster’s overall victory and ensured a memorable debut for the Dundalk player.