Rookie pro Grant bags PGA in North of Ireland Championship at Spa GC

Heather Edgar (Lady Captain Spa GC), Nicky Grant (Blackwood GC) Winner, Phil Posnett (PGA) and Gary Wardlow (Spa GC)

Former Irish amateur international, Nicky Grant, made a winning start to his professional career at the PGA North of Ireland Championship, supported by Golf Now.
Grant, now a PGA trainee at Blackwood Golf Centre, carded rounds of 36 and 38 points at Spa Golf Club to edge out Belvoir Park’s Chris Carvill by a point.
The tournament adopted a mixed format this year. The opening round was held as a team pro-am with the professionals carrying their individual scores forward into the pro-only second round.
Chris opened the event with a fine 38pts (-2) in difficult conditions. Heavy overnight rain had left the Ballynahinch venue very soggy underfoot and it took some sterling work from the greens staff and volunteers to keep play moving.

It didn’t seem to hamper Chris who was the only player in the field to break par. A drive and four iron onto the edge of the first green set up an opening birdie four but he three-putted the par three second to drop a shot.
After a five wood off the tee, a chip and putt gave Carvill a birdie three at the fourth hole and he added another birdie at the seventh when he holed from seven feet. Out in two-under-34 he increased his advantage with birdies at 11 and 13 courtesy of two excellent wedge shots.
However, he finished badly, dropping a shot at the 17th when he flew the green and, after driving into trees, he closed with a bogey five at the last for a back nine of regulation 36 and a round of 70 (38 pts)
Grant ended day one in second place following a level par 36 points with Nathan Kernaghan (Massereene GC) and Ciaran Molloy (Mayobridge GC) tied for third on 35 points (73).
Clandeboye’s Mark McCrory took the men’s top award in the pro-am on 39 pts, two ahead of former Ulster rugby player Andy Ward and David McCullough, both local members.
The gross prize was won by Scottish visitor Frazer Carr (Crail Golf Society), who plays off a plus-three handicap and returned 37 points.
Spa member Attracta Byrne was best in the women’s nett section with 33 points while Massereene assistant pro, Nathan Kernaghan, and Spa members Stephen Loftus, Philip Canaghan and David McCardle won the team event with an impressive 90 points.

PGA professionals Michael Bannon and Peter Hanna hosted a clinic ahead of the action at Spa GC

Overhead conditions improved overnight and Grant was quickly out of the blocks in round two, drawing level with Carvill at the turn. He wedged to 15 feet for birdie three at the fourth hole and on the next green rolled home a tramline 50-footer for another birdie three. He followed that with a two-putt birdie four from eight feet on the seventh to be out in three-under-33 to Carvill’s one under 35.
Chris dropped shot at 10 to put Grant ahead for the first time but the Belvoir man then birdied 12 and matched Nicky’s birdie at 13 to get back on level terms. With five holes remaining it was Grant who took charge, rattling off solid pars at 14, 15, 16 and 17 while Chris dropped a shot 14 and then double-bogeyed the par three 17th to fall three points behind his rival.
It gave Grant the luxury of knowing that a bogey would be good enough for victory but he wobbled down the last carding a double bogey six, after firing a three iron approach into trees. It gave Chris the chance to force a play-off with a birdie but his putt from 20 feet stayed above ground much to the relief of the new champion.
Brian McElhinney (North West GC) finished in third with a combined total of 69 points with Ciaran Molloy (Mayobridge GC) fourth with 68 points.

PGA in the North of Ireland Championship Leaderboard

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