Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Irish Open: Jamie Donaldson euphoric after first tour win

Jamie Donaldson felt it was 'surreal' after finally winning on the European Tour
Day three of the Irish Open, Royal Portrush Colf Club. Darren Clarke has a drink on the 1st tee box
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 26: Harry Diamond of Northern Ireland playing with his friend Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during practice for the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on June 26, 2012 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

A week that meant so much to Northern Ireland turned out to mean even more for Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

In his 255th European Tour event and after a career in which he has had to battle with a genetic spine problem, 36-year-old finally tasted victory in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush - and did it by four shots with five birdies in his last seven holes.

This was the first time since 1953 that the tournament had been played north of the border and what a success it was, with record crowds ever for a regular Tour event - over 112,000 for the four days.

Every one of them will hope it leads to the return of the Open Championship after even longer - Max Faulkner won that 61 years ago - and Donaldson will join them in that wish.

The former amateur star, who partnered Luke Donald and Paul Casey in the world team championship in 2000, has suffered from Pars disease, but careful management of it has finally enabled him to fulfil his dream.

His brilliant closing 66 was only one off the low round of the week and a 25-foot putt on the last enabled him to reach 18 under par.

"I'm buzzing," he said. "And I'm so happy to have won on this course - I don't think we have played a better one on the European Tour."

Reminded of his long wait to break through - it has contained 32 top 10 finishes - Donaldson added: "It's just been a case of keeping going. I knew that what I was doing was right. It feels a bit surreal to be honest. I don't think it will sink in till later."

The week also contained his first hole-in-one on the circuit and it began with him shooting 62 at Sunningdale to qualify for The Open at Royal Lytham in just over a fortnight.

Joint second were England's Anthony Wall, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti.

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