Mackin wins Ulster Boys U18 Championship

Newly crowned Ulster Boys champion Josh Mackin with Captain Pat Davis and Lady Captain Criona O’Reilly.

Dundalk Golf Club’s Josh Mackin has followed in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell by capturing the Ulster Boys U18 Championship.

The 17-year-old produced three excellent rounds at Donegal Golf Club to win the 54 hole event by five shots and capture his second provincial title, having won the Leinster Boys U16 title in 2017.

Mackin opened with a five under par 68 to hold the joint lead with Joshua Hill of Galgorm Castle after Round One. He birdied four of the first six holes and had two more down the back nine with his only blemish being a bogey on the par three fifth.

“I was delighted with my opening round mainly because I executed my game plan so well and took advantage of the par 5s, playing them in four under,” said Mackin.

In Round Two he again got off to a good start with three birdies and a bogey in the first six holes getting him to seven under for the tournament but he then dropped four shots over the next three holes before recovering down the back nine which he covered in one under par to finish on 74.

“I gathered myself really well on the back nine and shot one under in tricky conditions,” he said.

That left Mackin second on four under going into the final round. He was one shot behind Hill but was quite happy to be the hunter.

“I actually liked being one back as I knew there was no pressure on me and that one shot is nothing in 18 holes and especially with the bad weather that was being forecast for the last day.”

Wet and windy weather coming in off the Atlantic Ocean greeted the players when they teed up for the final round on the Murvagh links and all the leaders struggled over the opening seven holes.

Mackin bogeyed four of the first seven holes to slip back to level par for the tournament and was still one shot behind the leader but he drew level after Hill bogeyed the par five eighth. After sharing birdies on the par four ninth, the pair split on the 10th where there was a three shot swing. Mackin birdied the par four while Hill double bogeyed it.

Mackin then birdied the par five 12th for the third round in succession as Hill fell away and the Dundalk player parred his way home to finish on three under, the only player in the field to finish under par. He ended up five shots ahead of Fionn Hickey of Muskerry with Seapoint’s Dylan Keating in third on four over.

“The front nine was very hard mainly because most holes had a crosswind and pins were tucked away, so pars were hard to come by. Even though I got off to bad start in the final round I didn’t panic because I knew no one would be racing ahead with the bad condition. I just stayed positive and didn’t panic.

“From the ninth hole on I played really well. I hit some great shots, especially on the back nine, but my mindset was that any birdie chances I got I had to take advantage of because of the bad conditions. Fortunately enough I managed to capitalize on these opportunities.”

Mackin, who is now off scratch, was understandably delighted to claim his second provincial Boys title but admitted that the one was particularly sweet.

“Obviously winning the Leinster U16 title in 2016 was huge for me as it was a monkey off my shoulder but this victory was very special for me mainly because seven or eight months ago everyone thought I was done with golf and I did too. But t I didn’t want to be remembered in this sort of manner so I decided to keep my head down and put the work in. I always knew that I had talent and it was just about putting it to use.” said Mackin who paid tribute his coach Leslie Walker and his parents who never lost faith in him.

“I want to thank my parents for all support they have given me and also my coach Leslie Walker. He did a lot of work with me over the last few months but kept things very simple and that certainly suited me. The club have also been very supportive, particularly in the way they make it possible for me and others to play in these tournaments.”

Last week’s win is going to lead to a change in Mackin’s plans for the rest of 2019 as he now plans to play more elite competitions, especially abroad. He will head to Florida in June to try and qualify for the US Junior Amateur and reckons it will be a great test to see where his game is at in relation to the world stage.

“My main objective for this season was to make Boys Home Internationals in Wales this year. Obviously winning a Boys event was also one of my goals but now that I have one in the bank already the main thing is to push on from here and not slack off which could be so easy to do. If I keep the head down, and keep improving, hopefully I will have more success in the near future.”

Kyle Rafferty was the other Dundalk player in the field and although he struck the ball well from tee to green he couldn’t buy a putt and finished joint 38th after rounds of 78, 76 and 81.

Newly crowned Ulster Boys champion Josh Mackin with Dundalk Golf Club’s juvenile mentors Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon and Jim Caraher.

 

Lawlor ready to tee up with the pros in Australia

Brendan Lawlor

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is preparing for the trip of a lifetime in November when he will head to Sydney to tee it alongside the professionals playing in the Emirates Australian Open. Last year’s event included Jason Day and Jordan Speith and previous winners have included Speith, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Greg Norman.

Lawlor is among 12 of the top disabled golfers in the world who will be playing for the Australian All Abilities Championships alongside the professionals at The Lakes Golf Club as part of an initiative to help golf become more inclusive at all levels and also help the case being made by the International Golf Federation for the sport to be included in the 2024 Paralympics in France.

“This is the very first time it has happened,” explained Lawlor. “There was a display at the Portuguese Masters but nothing like this where we will be playing competitively in the same field as the professionals.

“Ours is a three day event, theirs is a four day event. But when the cut is made you will be paired with a pro-golfer and playing the same course,” added Lawlor who is travelling Down Under as one of seven European players in the field and with a huge incentive.

“If I win in Australia I can go to world number one so that’s my goal. I’m number three at the moment and getting to number one would be huge for me.”

Lawlor, who has Ellis-Van Creveld Syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs, is a member of the European Disabled Golfers Tour and although he only joined it late last year it didn’t take him to long to find his feet. This year he won in Portugal, France and Czech Republic to shoot up both the European and World rankings.

“It’s been fantastic. The talent that’s out there on tour is amazing. I couldn’t get over it the first time I played. There were people with one leg and one arm hitting it 260 yards. You wouldn’t see able bodied people doing that.

“What helps me is probably competing at able bodied golf all my life and playing with Dundalk and also in Ardee at the start. I’ve played able bodied golf all my life and I knew I had the game and the confidence to succeed in it.”

Lawlor is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel which won the Leinster Barton Shield title, reached the semi-final of the Leinster Senior Cup and was beaten in the All-Ireland Barton Shield Final this year. He says that playing senior golf in Ireland has helped his game and contributed to his success on the EDGA Tour.

“The standard here is a little bit better than the standard would be out on tour. The best out there is really good, but at club level I’m competing against Caolan Rafferty off plus five and Aaron Grant off plus three so it doesn’t really get better than that. When you are going out there on tour, knowing you’ve been playing against Caolan or Aaron, it gives you confidence.”

Lawlor, who is 21, has only been playing golf for six years having started in pitch and putt because he didn’t think he would have the strength needed for the bigger game.

“I didn’t think I was strong enough at the start so I started playing pitch and putt and I got to the highest level in pitch and putt and won two All-Irelands. I was playing it week in week out. Then I started golf and was given a handicap of 28. I was down to 10 in my first year and I just kept plugging away and I am off one now. Put in the hard work and things will happen.”

That hard work is now reaping unthinkable dividends for Lawlor as he prepares to head to Australia and his date with the pros which will then be followed by a Ryder Cup style match between Europe and Australia in Melbourne.

“It’s a great buzz. If I stuck at able bodied golf my whole life I’d never get this opportunity so it is opening massive doors for me.”

He is hoping that the exposure disabled golf gets from playing alongside the professionals in the Australian Open will persuade the powers-that-be to allow the sport into the 2024 Paralympics as he would love the opportunity of going for gold in France in six years’ time.

“I am third in the world and I want to be competing in the Paralympcis,” stated Lawlor who along with another disabled golfer, Gareth McNeely, is currently trying to set up an Irish Disabled Golfers Association.