John Ross Galbraith led from start to finish to capture the Ulster Boys Amateur Open Championship at Malone.
The Whitehead teenager had to keep his nerve after an almost disastrous third round 78 with the final two rounds played yesterday.
But with his nearest challenger Keith Egan from the Curragh also slipping up with a third round 81, it allowed Galbraith to maintain a two-shot lead going into the final round yesterday.
And a couple of early birdies helped to settle his nerves as he finished with a calm two under round of 69 to win by a massive seven shots from Balmoral’s Matthew McClean.
“This means the world to me. All the practice has finally paid off,” the 17-year-old said last night.
“I really wanted to win a major boys event this year and this was the obvious one. It’s great to win your home championship.
“It was great to be able to finish with a nice birdie putt as well, to go round in under 70 and that made it three rounds in the sixties as well.”
Ahead of the final round yesterday afternoon, Galbraith held just a two-shot lead over McClean at one over par for the tournament, having started the day on six under.
But he helped himself to a birdie four at the second to steady his nerves.
He failed to birdie the third, also a par five, but that didn’t do him any harm as neither did any of his closest rivals.
A birdie three at the fifth holes followed by a two at the short sixth holes really strengthened his grip on the title.
A dropped shot with a five at the par four seventh proved to be the only blip and he reached the turn in two under, several shots clear of the chasing pack who were beginning to fall away.
Any hopes they had that he would falter on the run for home disintegrated when he went on a run of eight consecutive pars to grind down any lingering opposition.
He dropped one more shot on the 16th with a bogey five but made a great putt on the 18th for a birdie three to finish in style and sign for a closing 69.
“It was when I holed a tricky ten foot putt on the 14th that I really thought I had it in the bag,” he added.
“I wasn’t feeling nervous all day, even when I wasn’t scoring in the morning when the conditions were really difficult.
I could see that everyone was having the same trouble as me, although starting the last round it was a little closer than I would have liked.
“In the morning it was playing really fast and firm, but it got a bit better for scoring later on.”
The top of the leader board was an all-Ulster affair with Tim Jordan from Dungannon finishes alone in third with Balmoral’s Stuart Bleakley alone in fourth.
William Russell from Clandeboye shared fifth place with Conor Glynn from Carton House and Ross Young from Rosslare.
John Ross is still only 17 so is still eligible to make a return next
year to defend his title next year, a feat so far only ever managed by a certain Rory McIlroy in 2003 and 2004.
He’s off to play in the Connacht Boys championship next week as a busy summer beckons.
“It feels brilliant to win a first big title like this,” the Boys’ International said.
“I got off to a good start in the first round and managed to keep it going in the second.
“It was a little closer than I would have liked at times, but I felt like I was in control and it was nice to finish it in style on 18 like that.”
The Ulster team for the Interprovincial Championship being held at Co Sligo on July 19-21 has been announced.
It’s an all-Northern Ireland side of Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint, Harry Diamond from Belvoir Park, Banbridge’s Conor Doran, Nicholas Grant from Knock, Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney, Luke Lennox of Moyola Park, Rathmore’s Wayne Telford and Reeve Whitson from Mourne.
The reserve is Colin Fairweather from Knock.