2018 was a breakthrough year for Sara Byrne, and that was recognised last week when she won the Irish Golf Writers Womens Amateur of the Year award. The award was a reflection on the results Sara achieved during the year as well representing Ireland at two international competitions. It was a busy year for Sara, although she committed to playing in fewer events this year, the competitions she did select were higher in profile and the quality of the field was generally stronger. In terms of other awards, Byrne topped the Girls Order of Merit by a clear margin, and she also finished third on the women’s order of merit. Sara’s season started in March when she finished third in the Munster Womens Championship in Killarney. Rounds of 74, 75 and 78 saw her claim a podium finish although she did miss out on retaining her Munster Girls title by one shot. Despite playing well, she couldn’t manage to claim the top spot until she got to Enniscrone in June for the Irish Womens Close. She came through two rounds of Strokeplay and five rounds of matchplay golf to win the national title. Aside from the mental battle of matchplay, she also had to contend with extreme weather as wind and rain battered the Sligo links for the final two days. In the final she beat Louise Coffey to claim her first national senior win. It was the first time in many years that a women’s national trophy came back to Cork, and only the fourth time that a Cork golfer won the Close. Claire Coughlan Ryan (Cork) was the last local winner in 1999 and there were two previous Douglas winners, Eavan Higgins in 1993 and Zellie Fallon in 1964. There were great celebrations in Douglas when news of the win filtered through, and by the time Sara and her family returned from Sligo a large crowd had gathered.
The journey back to Douglas was a special one for Sara. “Journeys home from tournaments are usually long and painful as I am not normally satisfied with my result, however this journey made up for them all” said Sara. “I answered nearly 100 messages and did some phone interviews on the quickest four-hour journey back to Douglas ever. When I arrived at my home club there was a magnificent welcome with more than 100 members and my family waiting to greet and celebrate with me at Douglas Golf Club.” The celebrations continued over the following days with Sara and her Dad Derek visiting the coaches and instructors who have helped her over the past six years. The tournament became a big calling card for Sara, playing against older and more experienced golfers, Byrne held her own even though she was aware of the pressure around her.
“Well when I was coming down the stretch I was a little nervous” admitted Sara, “however I was happy to be nervous. I worked so hard to put myself in big positions to be nervous about. I was prepared and ready to play when nervous and under pressure. I felt that I had worked too hard over the last few years to let this slip through. When I holed that final putt on the 17th green I cried a little with joy and relief, the memory of the 17th green at Enniscrone will live long in my memory.” In August she went to Ballybunion for her second Irish Girls appearance at the home internationals. It was a tough week for the Irish Girls, finishing in a tie for place despite drawing with the winners England on the opening day.
The Douglas teenager was also selected as one of the three Irish golfers for the World Junior Golf Championships which took place in Ottawa in September. The event, which was by invite only, saw twenty International Teams compete in Camleot Golf & Country Club. Sara was again honoured by her club Douglas a few weeks ago, along the Peter O’Keeffe, both golfers again gained Irish caps this year. With another year of girls golf ahead, Byrne will be looking at college options as she navigates the options available in Ireland and the US.