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O'Keeffe's return to amateur ranks proves a winner

By Paul Kelly

Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) produced a composed final round to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Championship at Royal County Down yesterday.

The former professional, carded a two over par 73 to finish the event on two over (286), three shots ahead of Scotland's Christopher MacLean and England's Tom Sloman.

"In general all week I loved the place. I knew I was comfortable here," said the 35-year-old.

"I had the pace of the greens, everything just slotted into place at the right time."

O'Keeffe made six visits to the European Tour Q-school before reapplying for his amateur status at the end of 2013.

He was then forced to sit out a two-year eligibility period and returned to the amateur game in 2016.

"It was tough. I always knew that I was going to be competitive at some level again. It wasn't a case of retiring," he added.

"My problem was that I never had the financial structure to plan a professional career.

"I still believe that I have a good game to bring me to a certain level.

"It's nice to get a title like this to reaffirm that."

Peter began the final 18 holes one shot ahead of Scotsman Christopher MacLean and two shots ahead of Belvoir Park's Marc Norton and England's Matthew Jordan.

He played the front nine in level par 35 and turning for home, had extended his advantage to four shots.

A birdie at the 11th extended his lead to five before his only wobble of the day at 15th when he managed to four putt.

"Yes I felt pressure, I lost concentration on the 15th green but I ground out a par on the next hole and then I just cruised in really," he added.

"It feels fantastic. It was tough to keep my emotions in check there going up the last and it was nice to have a few shots to lean on. It hasn't sunk in yet but I am absolutely delighted."

Norton's challenge was effectively ended on the ninth when he walked off with a quadruple bogey eighth.

The 19-year-old eventually signed for a 12 over 72 that saw him finish in a share of 39th. Defending champion, Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), who opened with a disastrous eight over par 79, battled back to end the tournament tied for 30th alongside Colin Fairweather (Knock) on 12 over par.

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