Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon beat Irish international Alex Gleeson (The Castle) 2&1 to win the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship title at Tramore GC.
The 23-year-old, a technician at Armagh Dental Lab, kept the trophy in Ulster hands for a second successive year by following up the 2014 victory of John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead).
On Wednesday evening the 23-year-old was anxiously waiting to see if he would qualify for the match-play stages after a second round 74 left him sitting on the cut-line.
At seven over, McLarnon scraped through in 62nd place but he made the most of his opportunity to claim the biggest win of his careet to date.
“Today is a big progression,” said McLarnon.
“I showed my true golfing ability out there at times when it was tough and when I needed to hit shots, I hit them.”
The Antrim man never trailed in the final against Gleeson and he got off to the perfect start with a conceded birdie at the first.
A two-putt birdie on the par-five second had McLarnon two ahead and when he chalked up his third birdie in four holes, an upset was on the cards.
Irish international Gleeson, who had two wins to his name already this season, came into the decider as the clear favourite having seen off the strong challenge of home star Robin Dawson in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile McLarnon had worked his way into the final after a one-hole win against Ardee’s Eugene Smith in the morning’s first semi-final.
“He (Gleeson) was probably classed as the favourite for the final,” admitted McLarnon.
“Alex is a great player. Last time I played him, he beat me 6&4 in the Interpros two years ago. I knew he was going to fire birdies at me. And he did. And I was able to cope with it.”
Before Gleeson could get into his stride, McLarnon had raced into a four-hole lead.
“I was three under through five and it put him under pressure. It was a good start because it was a platform I could work off,” said McLarnon, who was lucky to halve the sixth when Gleeson missed a short putt for par.
It wasn’t long before the Castle star found his groove and he notched his first birdie of the final when he put his second shot close at the seventh.
He holed a tramliner at the ninth to be just two down at the turn and he continued to reel in the deficit at the 10th when a superb four-iron approach set up his third birdie in 10 holes.
However Gleeson’s run came to an end at the 11th when he came up short with his second and failed to save par.
McLarnon went two ahead and then holed an important birdie putt for a half at the next.
“I think 11 and 12 were key. I had a great putt on 12 just to stay in it. I think that’s what you need to do, you need to just stay there.
“I was two up at that stage and then I birdied 13 which has probably been the second hardest hole this week. That gave me a lot of satisfaction,” said McLarnon.
Gleeson needed something special to turn things around but his putter had gone cold.
He missed good chances to win at 14 and 15 and came to the 16th three down with three to play.
Needing a birdie to stay alive, Gleeson two-putted from the back of the 16th green to take the match down 17. Both players found the green and when Gleeson’s putt slipped past, McLarnon had a three-footer for the championship.
“I always believed I could win,” said McLarnon,
“I wouldn’t turn up if I didn’t believe I could win. This week it just came together at the time right time.”