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.