Lester goes South in final

by Karl Graham

HERMITAGE GC’s Rowan Lester produced some superb golf to reach the final of the South Of Ireland in Lahinch.
In the end, he was unfortunately beaten by Portmarnock’s in-form Conor Purcell in a match played in winds gusting over 30mph at times.
Nonetheless, it was a productive week for the rising 20-year-old star at a high quality tournament in which he raced through the preliminary pahses.
Armed with a red-hot putter, Lester torched Tiarnan McLarnon 5&4 in the last 16 and went on to beat Stephen Watts 2&1 in the quarter-final.
He subsequently met Castle GC’s Daniel Holland, a player six years his senior.
Lester also had a one-hole cushion playing the last but Holland birdied to take the match down 19.
Holland came close to birdie again only for Lester to hole an incredible putt. Putting from the swail left of the green, Lester judged it perfectly for a dramatic extra-time victory.
It earned him a place in his first final of this magnitude but Purcell took home his first major championship in some style, beating Lester 4&3.
The 19-year-old from Portmarnock clinched his maiden title with all the grace and guile of a seasoned campaigner. Back-to-back birdies at eight and nine gave him a two-hole cushion at the turn and the gap continued to grow at 11 and 12.
With six holes left and Purcell four up, Lester was in desperate need of birdies. In truth it was a struggle for the Hermitage star, himself a relative novice at 20.
His long game was uncertain and pars were not going to be enough to catch Purcell down the stretch.
Lester made a valiant attempt to keep the match alive but when his birdie putt failed to drop at 15, Purcell ended the contest with a par. Watched by his dad, Joey and mum, Mary – who served as caddy for the week – the teenage Purcell added his name to an illustrious list.
Both players started bogey-birdie and the first win came at the third when Purcell saved par. Hitting full stride at the Klondyke, he made eagle look easy. Just as quickly, the course took one back when he failed to save par at the Dell.
Lester scrambled a bogey for a half at the sixth and squared the match with a par at the seventh. The momentum shifted again.
The eighth has been kind to Purcell this week and the picturesque par-three yielded another birdie at a crucial stage.
The ninth went Purcell’s way as well, holing for birdie from 10 feet after Lester lipped out.
There was a chance for Lester to pull one back at the 10th but a bogey allowed Purcell escape with a half.
A regulation par at 11 pushed Purcell further ahead and a two-putt birdie at the 12th dealt Lester another devastating blow.
From there, Purcell parred his way to the title and what he hopes will be a senior cap.

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