The ladies' Senior Cup squad and caddies set off on the long journey to Killarney Golf Club to take part in the All-Ireland finals from the 22-24th August 2019. The team had qualified way back in May by virtue of making the Ulster final against Royal County Down following victories over Bangor Golf Club and Royal Portrush. Although defeated in that game, the team qualified and completed the line up of top eight teams by virtue of being one of the lowest aggregate handicapped finalists.
The team which travelled to Killarney had a slightly different look from May, as unfortunately we were without Niamh McSherry and Maeve Cummins who had already travelled back to the USA to recommence their studies. However, on the bonus side, we had gained the services of Annabel Wilson, who had been unavailable in May, to bolster the ranks.
As luck would have it, we drew our fellow Ulster finalists in the quarter-final and faced RCD again. So early on the Friday morning, we set out to try to reverse the earlier result and gain some revenge. Annabel Wilson was first out and faced fellow Irish international Paula Grant in the opening match. Fresh from her great play in the ISPA Handa International series at Galgorm and Masserene, Annabel proved to be in good form. In a very good match she took an early lead and continued to keep her foot on the pedal to put the first point on the board with a decisive 5&4 victory. In the second match, Niamh Ward took on Katie Poots. Niamh has also had some great late season form having recently won the East Leinster Ladies Open. The early part of the match was fairly well balanced, (perhaps Niamh was still slightly half asleep), however she certainly woke up and produced some stunning golf to take her match, again in a convincing manner winning 5&4. One more point was now required to progress. Cara Murphy out at three, was having a very tight game with Mollie O'Hara but in the end just lost out 2&1 and Fiona McGrady played a tight game with Anita McCaw but also just lost out. The crucial match was the fourth, with young Aoife Brown making her Senior Cup debut having been reserve in May. And what a debut it was!
The 'child' came of age as she faced the very experienced Kate Evans. This match was nip and tuck the whole way with only a hole between the players at any time. As both stood on the 18th par 5 all square, the nerves of all players and certainly the supporters were jangling somewhat. The RCD player drove and her ball found the water to the left of the fairway. Aoife needed now to hold her nerve and hold it she did playing a beautifully placed drive to the right of the fairway. Having taken her penalty and her next two shots the RCD player was on the green. Aoife played a sensible second to a good position. We all held our breath and waited for her third. Prayers were offered and we all hoped for a safe landing on the green avoiding all hazards and water! 'Cometh the hour cometh the man' or woman in this case. With a huge crowd watching from the clubhouse gallery, Aoife hit the shot of her life to land six inches from the pin forcing her opponent to concede the match.
After a very quick turnaround, the girls barely had time to breathe before going back on to the tee to face the hosts Killarney in the semi-final. This was always going to be a tough match as the opponents knew the course so well and had the benefit of a longer break between games, however the girls were up for the challenge.
In the first game, Annabel played another Irish team mate and one of her best friends in Mairead Martin. This was another fantastic game with both girls playing outstanding golf. Again this match fluctuated between all square or one up or down throughout with no quarter given. On the 18th tee, the match was finely balanced at all square but when Annabel's drive caught the wind and made the water on the left of the fairway, after her opponent had placed her drive in perfect position, we feared the first match was over.
However, having taken her drop and penalty, Annabel played a magnificent shot to the green which landed a foot from the pin giving her a birdie chance. Her opponent perhaps played too safe and just missed the green with her second. She too chipped on for a birdie putt. Both girls coolly sank their putts for birdie to extend the match to the 19th.
Back on the first tie hole, a shortish (for those girls!) par 4 with beach and water to the right, young Mairead took the safe route to the green with a conservative drive to the left. Annabel decided to go route one to the green and just missed, as her ball clipped the wall at the edge of the green and met a watery end. She reloaded and tried again but when her ball missed the green for a second time, she had to concede defeat; but what a game with both girls ending their rounds on the 18th at 6 under par.
Niamh Ward again out at two, played another outstanding game. She dominated in the early stages of the game. Her opponent played the first seven holes in level par and still found herself three down as Niamh was in sparkling form and by the closing stages, Niamh stood at dormie four. However the Killarney player played her best golf over the closing holes and pegged Niamh back to dormie one playing the 18th. We hoped for a least a point from this game and Niamh birdied the last winning 1 up. The remaining players, Cara, Aoife and Christine battled hard but it was always going to be a tough ask to defeat the locals on home turf and we had to concede defeat.
So overall a fantastic year for our whole Senior Cup squad as they finally broke the domination of the big two in Ulster golf at this level, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.
Thank you to all the players for representing the club so well and for once again putting Lurgan Golf Club on the map. Thanks also to Lady Captain and all the supporting cast of caddies, drivers and supporters who travelled to both the Ulster and Irish finals. Your support was very much appreciated by the players.
Senior Cup Squad 2019 : Annabel Wilson, Niamh McSherry, Maeve Cummins, Niamh Ward, Cara Murphy, Aoife Brown, Fiona McGrady, Christine Hagan, Sian Mullholland