Teenager Sara Byrne is the new Irish Women’s Close Champion. The Douglas golfer beat all before her in Enniscrone over the past three days to claim the prestigious national title. A 2&1 win over Louise Coffey this afternoon meant that another national title is headed back to Douglas Golf Club.
“This is just amazing, I knew I could do it” said a delighted Byrne. “When Louise won the 3rd I knew that it was better to be up at the end of the match than at the start, I knew that a one hole difference was nothing so I stayed patient. This is definitely my number one achievement to date, on the final few holes I got a bit nervous but I told myself that I had worked too hard to give this one away. This brings my golf career up a step and any event now I play in I can tell myself that I can win because I am Irish Champion!”
The Irish and GB&I capped golfer now joins an elite group, previous winners include Leone Maguire, Lisa Maguire and Olivia Mehaffey. The Close is a combination of a 36 hole strokeplay qualifier with the top 32 going forward for the matchplay stages. Although Sara opened with a disappointing 82 in the first round of the strokeplay qualifier, she recovered with a second round 76 to finish in the top ten and book a place in the final 32. Three wins over Sunday and Monday finished with a 3&2 win over Molly Dowling in the quarter final. Yesterday morning there were just four golfers left. She had a 2&1 win over Sarah Cunningham to reach the final where she faced Louise Coffey. After halving the opening two holes, Sara lost the third to a birdie. After halving the fourth, Byrne picked up the pace and won the fifth, sixth and seventh to take a two hole lead. She kicked on again after the turn to go three up, and although Coffey pulled two holes back, Sara won with a hole to spare.
“I stayed quite calm out there, I think that was the main thing” said Sara after her win. “The weather was pretty crappy so I just took my time getting my hands and the clubs dry and made sure I was feeling comfortable over the ball. I was level par for 16 holes, with one little blip, so I am super happy with that in the conditions.”
It’s 19 years since someone from Cork won the Irish Women’s Close, that was Cork’s Claire Coughlan who beat Eileen Rose Power in Carlow. Byrne becomes the third winner from Douglas following Zelie Fallon in 1964 and Evann Higgins in 1993.
Another couple of holes won at the turn and by then she had her sights firmly set on the Irish Women’s Close trophy. A birdie on the par 5 15th was responded to by a birdie from Louise on the 16th but a par on the 17th was enough for a 2&1 victory for the Cork teenager.