An unusually early start to County Armagh Golf Club's 2018 Ulster Cup campaign soon became a very satisfying one too, as the team booked its place in the competition’s first round proper.
The historic and prestigious GUI Ulster Cup, which is played in singles format, is open to golfers with a handicap over 10 and an age over 30.
With the tournament draw having pitted them against Greenisland in the preliminary phase, Marty Daly’s seven-man band pitched up on the shores of Belfast Lough for the first leg clash on Sunday 25 March.
Here, there were resounding wins for Cormac O’Hare and skipper Daly, while Barry McGurgan and Gary Lappin each earned a half point. Paul McCurry, Tom Calvert and Patrick Brannigan were defeated but, crucially, only by narrow margins.
That all added up to a halfway scoreline of Greenisland’s four points to County Armagh’s three, but with our lads four holes to the good.
For the return leg on home soil on 8 April then, Nigel McMahon and Paul Corvan joined a group in understandably good heart and quietly confident of turning the tie in their favour after that creditable away performance.
The Cathedral City course was already as sodden as Greenisland had been a fortnight previously but, on a Masters Sunday on which the pugnacious Patrick Reed would be deservedly crowned an Augusta champion, the local weather took a real turn for the worse when the matches reached County Armagh’s very own Amen Corner.
The sunlit tranquillity of the initial exchanges had now given way to moody skies, high winds, thunder, rain and even a hail storm that turned the putting greens to whites.
The County Armagh players battled bravely in the elements, however, securing big wins through Patrick Brannigan, Cormac O’Hare again and Paul Corvan, and the accruing points were ultimately enough for them to prevail.
With the home side up in two of the three remaining encounters and also having increased their advantage in the holes count, those combatants left out on the course shook hands and agreed to half points all round before retreating to the sanctity of the clubhouse.
As reward for this impressive 8.5-5.5 triumph over Greenisland, our Ulster Cup side will now meet either Lambeg or Portstewart in the next stage. Well done and good luck to them!
The victorious County Armagh squad consisted of Patrick Brannigan, Tom Calvert, Paul Corvan, Marty Daly (captain), Gary Lappin, Paul McCurry, Nigel McMahon, Cormac O’Hare, and Barry McGurgan.