Sunshine. Golf. Beers. Burgers. Saturday 9 June was just about the perfect day for all of the 180 competitors at County Armagh Golf Club, but it was an extra special one for Kevin Ward.
In the Professional's Competition kindly sponsored by full-time club professional and part-time barbecue maestro, Will Carey, a virtuoso performance from Ward saw him carry off the big prize.
Will Carey, sponsor of the recent Professional's Competition at County Armagh Golf Club, is pictured alongside Club Captain, Colm Shannon, and prizewinners (L-R) Lee Campbell, Martin Murphy, Ian Ritchie and Lee Kirrane.
Kevin reached the turn at just five over par having been helped along by pars at the 2nd, 4th and 9th and a bonus birdie at the 6th. And even better would follow on a back nine consisting of another birdie up on Rokeby Green, a handful of momentum-maintaining bogeys and a particularly meritorious run of three pars on the trot from the 15th to 17th. That all added up to a magnificent nett 63 that earned Ward a new handicap of 14 as well as the highest accolade in Will's showpiece event.
In second and third spots behind the main man Kevin were Martin Murphy and Leo King, both of whom also declared on the nett 63 mark and were separated into the silver and bronze positions on breaks of tie.
Second-placed Murphy's splendid gross 75 featured half-a-dozen consecutive pars early on and another brilliant six-hole stretch on his way home during which he was two under par through birdies at Ballyheridan and Beresford. A concluding double bogey was not ideal and limited Martin's prospects to runner-up honours, but this was an excellent display nevertheless.
The same was true of Leo, whose ragged double bogeys at the 11th and 16th did little to detract from the impressiveness of his gross 72. Ten pars allied with birdies at the 3rd, 8th, 13th and 14th enabled King to negotiate the other 16 holes in a sensational two under par as the Portadown player's purple patch continues.
Will's trusty Pro Shop lieutenant, Lee Campbell, very much rose to his boss's occasion and, fittingly, made it onto the podium by prevailing in category 1. Lee's outing of 17 pars and a birdie was quite stunning in its simplicity, and he was the sole Saturday contender to keep a bogey off his card. Equalling Campbell's brilliant nett 64 and occupying second in the 0-12 handicap bracket was Paul McCurry, who backed up a majestic one-under-par outward trek with a more prosaic but still useful 42-shot homeward dander.
Reeling off five pars on the spin from Sequoias to the clubhouse was the fantastic manner in which Ian Ritchie closed out a nett 65 that secured him both the category 2 plaudits and a new handicap of 15. Runner-up here and also posting a wonderful nett 65 was the in-form Lee Kirrane. A nap hand of pars in each half, including a couple to conclude proceedings, aided a gross 80 that extended the Londoner's recent good spell and put paid to any lingering doubts about his on-course mental strength.
Robert Fagan proved unbeatable in category 3, where four pars in the last five holes meant he could sign for an excellent nett 69. Three adrift of that tally was Jonathan Mulligan, whose three-par back nine salvo was key to his clinching second place behind Fagan. Finally, Adam Cromwell's exceptional, yet somehow almost customary, two-under-par round represented the day's lowest gross score, while Derek Little and Andrew Clarke sealed the gongs for nearest the pin and longest drive respectively.
Will Carey's 11th tee barbecue proved a big hit among those contesting his Professional's Competition at County Armagh Golf Club.