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Lester fights back to lift the North of Ireland title


By Paul Kelly

Rowan Lester (Hermitage) battled back to beat Colin Fairweather (Knock) by two holes in the final of the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

Fairweather was three up after six but, as conditions worsened, Lester gradually pegged him back. The Leinster golfer finally went ahead for the first time at the 17th and wrapped up a two-hole victory by winning the 18th.

"I was playing well at the start and had it going straight off the tee, then he got the momentum coming through on the 12th," said Fairweather.

"When he won that hole and was able to get on the tee ahead of me he was then able to get into his rhythm.

"I was never really on my 'A' game all week. I battled around all week but I just fell short."

Fairweather is waiting for surgery to treat varicose veins but refused to blame that for defeat.

"I noticed it at the start of the season and as the summer has worn on it has got more achy," said the 26-year-old.

"It is such a weird thing to have but I got an injection and I got a stocking on it at the start of the week that took most of the pain away. It's not an excuse."

Lester, who fired a course record 64 (-7) on the Valley Links during qualifying, insisted he never feared the worse, even after falling behind so early.

"I knew I was playing good. I knew that if I could keep it solid and not have any bogeys I would get back," said the 21-year-old, a student at Texas Wesleyann University.

"In match play three-up is comfortable but two or one up is never comfortable. I knew just to hang in there. I always like leading and when I go behind I normally find it hard but I knew I was going to come back. I didn't necessarily think I would win, but I knew I would get back and make it tight. I had that feeling."

The morning semi-finals had also proved to be close affairs with Fairweather edging out Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk GC) by one hole while Lester finally saw off Alex Gleeson (Castle) on the 19th.

• IRELAND'S hopes of a fifth place finish at the European Boys' Team Championship are still on course after a 3-2 victory over Germany at La Manga, Spain, yesterday.

Ireland also continued to impress in Flight B of the European Ladies' Team Championship with a crushing victory over the Czech Republic at Montado, Portugal after a convincing 4-1 win over Slovakia in the quarter-finals. Ireland saw off the Czech Republic 3.5-1.5 as they aim for a ninth place finish overall.

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