The Irish Seniors Close championship at Thurles in mid-week was a tale of two victories. The course defeated the persistent heavy rain - and Garth McGimpsey dominated the field. As one of the younger Seniors and holder of a glittering record in amateur golf - a British Amateur title which got him into the U.S. Masters; Walker Cup caps galore and a recent captaincy, plus Irish amateur wins aplenty - the Bangor player was the obvious favourite at Turtulla. A six strokes eventual margin thoroughly justified expectations.
The solitary negative to the big occasion was the untimely rain. Only the Thursday morning section got any respite. Wet gear has seldom been more severely tested than over the three days, nor the golfers’ patience. But if this was hard luck on the players, the G.U.I. organising committee our own relevant club committee, the course staff and those followers eager to see top names in action, the event was still a fine competitive and social success. And it produced a prestigious name on the trophy to endorse the status of a championship that was initiated only last year. Proceedings began on Tuesday evening with a pleasant formal reception. Sponsors Tourism Malaysia were represented by their Irish manager. The event was welcomed to Thurles by club President Joe Kelly and Men’s Captain Jimmy O’Neill.
It did not take long for a local aspect to become prominent - it was to be still well in the picture after two rounds. The Wednesday scoring was led on level par 72 by Tipperary’s Arthur Pierse, Seamus McParland (Greenore) and Declan Corcoran of the host club. All scoring in the event was on gross terms. Corcoran had a brilliant start from the 10th tee with 3,3,3 to go under par and he held together well all the way to share the lead with Tipp’s Walker Cup player and the noted McParland. Next on 73 was B. Donlon (Birr).
Interest was high on McGimpsey’s return. He shot a useful 74 in company with former Open Seniors winner Adrian Morrow (Portmarnock), A. Smith (Island) and N. Duke (Killiney). On Thursday McGimpsey made his move and displayed his class with the outstanding card of the championship, a three under 69 which propelled him into a four shot lead on 143. His 69 consisted of 35,34 with half a dozen birdies. Corcoran lay second on 147 after a round of 75 and was to be in the last three-ball on Friday morning along with the leader and third placed Donlon.
By now a fine day would have been quite a surprise and, sure enough, the last day was on same pattern as the others to the discomfort of those who formed a gallery. Few would have thought so strong and experienced a golfer as McGimpsey would falter - nor did he. Again one under for the front nine he held a conclusive advantage all the way - only the 72’s of holder Maurice Kelly (Killeen) and Morrow matched McGimpsey’s smooth final round. He totalled 215 (74,69,72) for a win that will hardly be a one off for a player of his ability. The last round, unfortunately, went against Corcoran who still got into the top ten and the prize-list. Well done to him.
Results: 215 - G. McGimpsey; 221 - M. Kelly; 222 - A. Morrow; 225 - A. Smith; 226 - N. Duke (winner over 60’s); 227 - N. Lavin, H. Smyth, B. Donlon; 228 - S. McParland, D. Corcoran; 230 - A. Pierse; 234 - J. O’Donoghue (Tipp.) winner over 65’s; 236 - A. Smith, winner over 70’s.
The formalities were briskly proceeded with. Munster Branch representative Michael Murphy led the function with thanks and congrats to Thurles for staging the competition and for coping so well with the difficulties of the weather. He also thanked the Union’s championship committee for its efficient role. The winner, he said, ranked with Joe Carr as Ireland’s leading amateur - this fine victory added further to his record. He introduced Union Hon-Secretary Albert Lee, who echoed the congrats, with special reference to the work of the course staff in keeping things moving in such adverse conditions. He welcomed new General Secretary Pat Finn back to his native club for the occasion.
Thurles Captain Jimmy O’Neill conveyed Thurles’ appreciation of the honour of accommodating and event of such national status. He thanked all in the club who had worked hard to make it a success, the competitions committee, course committee, course staff, bar and catering staffs. He joined in the welcome for Pat Finn and wished him all the best in his high position in Irish golf.
Winner Garth McGimpsey had warm compliments for the Thurles course. Its second nine reminded him of his own Bangor lay out.