Posts Tagged ‘Royal Portrush’

North of Ireland competitors to test Open lay-out at Royal Portrush

June 1, 2017

Stephen Ferris, Brand Ambassador Cathedral Eye with Andrew Spence Cathedral Eye, Eamon O’Connor Chair GUI Ulster Branch and  John Bamber, Chair of the Open Championship Committee launching the Cathedral Eye North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship 
Picture: Golffile | Fran Caffrey

Fancy a taste of the Open Championship?
The revamped Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush will host this year’s Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship (July 10-14) and the GUI is still accepting entries.
The famous North Coast links has been upgraded ahead of the Open Championship in 2019 and club officials are keen to see how the new lay-out performs in Championship conditions.
The new seventh named Curran Point and eighth hole named Dunluce will be put into play and competitors will finish their rounds at the current 16th hole
“We have no evidence how the new seventh and eighth holes will play other than what professional architects have told us will happen,” said John Bamber, Chairman of the Open Championship Committee.

“The North of Ireland gives us the opportunity to get 300 top class golfers out there giving us data which will allow us to decide how we play those holes in the coming months.

“It is the perfect opportunity, a field of category one golfers, championship golfers, playing the course. What better way to assess the two new holes. I just hope we get relatively fair links conditions during the tournament.”
The new holes, designed by MacKenzie & Ebert, will actually open for play on June 24th to host Mr David McMullan’s Captain’s Day competition. For the members, it will be the first time they get to sample the course as it will be configured for the Open Championship.
“In many ways it is an historic occasion,” added Bamber.
“The last time two new holes were added to the Dunluce, people like Harry Colt were involved.
“I know that in previous years we have revamped a number of tee boxes but this is completely new. It really is something very special.”
The current 17th and 18th holes will be removed from play towards the end of the summer as work continues to create the infrastructure to host the Open Championship.
The closing date for entries into the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship is June 12. For more details visit

Ciara Casey claims Ulster Women’s Championship

May 31, 2017

(l-r) Ray Gregg, Hon Sect, Ulster District ILGU; Ciara Casey (The Hermitage) and Dr Joan Millar, Chair, Ulster District ILGU

Ciara Casey (The Hermitage) was crowned Ulster Women’s Champion at Moyola Park on Tuesday beating Emma Forbes (Royal Portrush) 2&1 in the final.
Casey, a member of the ILGU’s High Performance panel, who won the Leinster Girls’ Championship in 2015 was made to battle hard by Forbes.
The pair were locked together after nine holes and Casey found herself one down after 12 but she finished strongly, winning the 15th, 16th and 17th to grab her first senior title.
“I’m absolutely delighted, it was a great week at Moyola Park,” said the 19-year-old who will take up a golf scholarship at Maynooth University in September.

“There was some really good golf played in the final. I was approximately one under through those opening nine holes. Emma played well but I just sort of hung in there towards the end and kept making important pars.”

The Junior Championship was won by Temple’s Dawn Scarborough who beat home favourite, Mary O’Kane 4&3 in the final.
“I was slightly surprised to be honest, especially after watching Mary hole a putt of around 40 feet on the first,” said Dawn, a 12 handicapper.
“I have played in the Ulster Championship for a number of years and it does prove that once you make it through the stroke play qualifying anything can happen in the match-play stages.”
Massereene’s Lucy Simpson, who topped the stroke play qualifying rounds with a total of 152, one shot ahead of Casey, was forced to withdraw from the match-play rounds following a family illness.

Ulster Women’s Championship results

Magical McElhinney makes it two wins on the bounce at Royal Portrush

January 29, 2017

For the second time this month and the third time in four events, Brian McElhinney topped the leaderboard at an Ulster Golfers’ Alliance tournament.
The links specialist, a former British Amateur champion, claimed another UGA win at Royal Portrush in the PGA Grand Prix.
The North West pro posted a six-under-66 to finish one shot ahead of Belvoir Park assistant Chris Carvill. McElhinney carded three birdie fours and five birdie threes with two bogey fives stopping the rampage on the run in.
Putting was the secret of the winner’s spectacular round.
He rolled in a 20-footer on the fourth green for birdie three, chipped to eight feet at the next for another three, and pitched to four feet from 70 yards at eight for his third three.
He then brought his big hitting into play, being pin high left at the long ninth hole and getting down with a chip and putt for birdie four, and an outward tally of four-under-par 32.
A drive and three wood to 12 feet set up another birdie four at the 10th hole before he made his fourth and fifth birdie threes at 12 and 13. He holed a 10-footer at 12 and a 15-footer at the next hole.
The Donegal man then had his first lapse of the round when he missed the green at 16 which resulted in a dropped shot but he regained the lost ground when he pitched to three feet for a birdie four at 17, before he finished with his second bogey five on the 18th after he put his five iron approach into a bunker for a back nine of 32.
Local member Matt McAlpin, a plus-one handicapper, topped the amateurs’ gross board with 40 points. The Category One prize was won by Ardglass four-handicapper David Madine on 36 points, while Gary Smyth, who plays off nine at Kirkistown Castle, won the Category Two award with 39 points.
Best in the Butterball Team event were Castle Hume pro, Shaun Donnelly and amateur Michael Dallat, a Galgorm Castle scratch player. Their winning score was 44 points.

PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Grand Prix at Royal Portrush

Selected scores
Professionals: 66 (-6) – B McElhinney (North West).
67 – C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
68 – D Mooney (Nevada Bobs Belfast).
70 – A Cathers (Ardglass), G Wardlow (Spa), S Donnelly (Castle Hume).
Amateurs: Gross, 40 pts – M McAlpine +1 ( Royal Portrush).
37 – M Malone 2 (Belvoir Pk)
36 – M Dallat scr (Galgorm Castle),
Category One: 36 pts – D Madine 4 (Ardglass).
Category Two: 39 pts – G Smyth 9 (Kirkistown Castle).
Team Betterball: 44 pts – Pro S Donnelly (Castle Hume) & Amateur M Dallat scr (Galgorm Castle).
With thanks to Tony McGee

The secret to winning the ‘North’? Better get your putting right

July 11, 2016
Andrew Spence, Principal Optometrist at Cathedral Eye Clinic with Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith, winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship 2015

Andrew Spence, Principal Optometrist at Cathedral Eye Clinic with Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith, winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship 2015

What exactly does it take to win one of Ireland’s big ‘four’ provincial championships?
Will a mix of luck, stamina and a stellar short game give you the edge on your competitors?
As the North of Ireland Championship got underway at Royal Portrush today, the 2015 champion, John Ross Galbraith outlined the key elements to winning at the famous North Coast venue.
“It’s tough mentally when you get towards the end of the week,” said John Ross speaking on the NI Golf Podcast.
“You obviously have to be playing well, playing good golf.
“I think you need to putt really well all week, that’s key around Portrush. You can reach many of the greens in regulation handy enough. It’s just who is going to hole the important putts then.
“Looking back to last year, I putted quite well on the way to winning.”

John Ross beat Rosslare’s Gary Collins last year in a final played in storm-like conditions.
It was a victory that meant a great deal for the Whitehead golfer.
“It was amazing. Growing up it was the one I always wanted to win. When you’ve been up and seen all the guys like Rory [McIlroy] and Shane Lowry playing in it,” he added.
“It was great to add my name to the list of winners. Being a ‘local’ guy it was great to have family and friends there to support me during the week. It’s one that I will never forget.”
Greenore’s Colin Wilton led qualifying at Royal Portrush with an opening 70 on the opening day of qualifying.
The best score of the day came from Devin Morley (Oughterard) who fired a 68 on the Strand Course at Portstewart.

In Northern Ireland only the journalists aren’t Made for Golf

March 13, 2016
Team NI - 3-1 and full of hope before the collapse at Lough Erne

Team NI – 3-1 up and full of hope before the collapse at Lough Erne

We’re rightly proud of our golfing success stories in Northern Ireland – our major winners, amateur stars and Championship venues.
The exploits of Rory, Graeme, Darren, Cormac, Stephanie and Olivia are headline news in this wee corner of Europe.
We have the players and we also have the golfing product, a course to match every price range and ability. Everything from glorious Championship links like Royal County Down and Royal Portrush to hidden gems like Kilkeel and Ardglass.
So we can be forgiven for getting ever so slightly carried away – maybe even a little bit smug on occasion.
Northern Ireland is #MadeforGolf* – although, based on recent performances, the golfing media should possibly be excluded from that particular description.
The stats don’t lie. In six editions of the annual ‘Writer Cup’ – the Ryder Cup style event pitching Northern Ireland journalists against Republic of Ireland journalists – the North has won just once, the first one – I played in it and it seems a lifetime ago.
Since then, it’s been something of a tale of woe for Northern Ireland.
We’ve played some wonderful courses over the years; Castlerock, Galgorm Castle, Kirkistown and Malone have all rolled out the red carpet for our Southern visitors but the welcome has not been matched by the golfing performance of the ‘home’ team.

The 2015 staging of the event hosted annually by Tourism NI was supposed to be different. Some young blood had been drafted in to add a bit of energy to the Northern Ireland side and the venues seemed tailor-made to finally end the pain.
Day one would be spent at Dungannon GC. Darren Clarke, the 2016 European Ryder Cup captain, spent his formative years at the Co Tyrone venue and if it was good enough for him….
Day two would find the eight man teams at Lough Erne Resort. The named venue for the 2017 Irish Open and coincidentally the site of the North’s only victory in the Writer Cup – surely it was a lucky omen.
Dungannon GC was founded in 1890 and is one of the original founder clubs of the Golfing Union of Ireland. The parkland course has been extended in recent years with some input from Darren Clarke.

The 9th at Dungannon GC

The 9th at Dungannon GC

Water hazards feature on three of the extended holes. The signature hole, the par three ninth is now called “Darren Clarke” which features a fairly narrow, ribbon-like crescent-shaped green which is completely protected from the tee by a pond. In 2009 six new greens, designed by international course architect Patrick Merrigan, opened on the back nine.
It’s no frills, honest golf and it clearly suited team Northern Ireland as did the fourball format. So much so that by the end of day one, Northern Ireland had grabbed a significant 3-1 lead.
As you might well guess, spirits were high amongst the leaders as the teams left Dungannon to travel to Enniskillen for an overnight stay at the luxurious Lough Erne Resort.

The 8th at Lough Erne

The 8th at Lough Erne

Designed by six-time major champion, Nick Faldo, the championship course at Lough Erne opened for play in 2009. Measuring 7,167 yards and playing to a par 72, the Faldo Course is an exciting challenge for golfers of all abilities
Situated between Castle Hume Lough and Lower Lough Erne, 14 of the holes have water in play, highlighted by the iconic 10th Hole, ‘Emerald Isle’ where the green is surrounded on three sides by water.
The luxury five-star resort also boasts a second 18-hole course – Castle Hume – and a state of the art practice range and academy. Guests can stay in one of the 120 luxury rooms and suites, make use of the Thai Spa and enjoy some innovative dining experiences.
With the fine dining, excellent hospitality and the superb facilities on site it seemed that everything was pointing towards a breakthrough win for Northern Ireland on day two but somehow the tables were turned in the Fermanagh sun.

It’s hard to know exactly what went wrong. Maybe it was nerves, or more likely the after effects of the late-night sing-song. Either way, the visitors produced a stunning singles fight back, bagging five and a half points from the eight on offer to retain the trophy for a fifth successive year.
As 2015 NI captain I shouldered much of the responsibility for defeat. On reflection, my pre-round pep-talk when I urged the squad to put ‘the water hazard down the right of the first fairway’ out of their minds probably wasn’t ideal. In the circumstances, I could hardly complain when my heartfelt resignation was met with a round of applause.

Lynn McCool working with team NI's Phil Finnegan

Lynn McCool trying to give team NI’s Phil Finnegan some tips

Personally, I blame Lough Erne’s Head professional Lynn McCool, who hosted a coaching clinic prior to tee off which clearly made all the difference to our ‘guests’ – they paid more attention than the home side who were too busy slashing away at the range balls to take in Lynn’s tips for success.
In the wake of this latest defeat, there has been calls for a task force to be set up and talk of a root and branch review of the selection policy.
One thing is certain, with so many things going right for golf in Northern Ireland, the journalists are letting the side down.
Something must be done to stop the rot in 2016.

*Tourism NI

For details on playing Lough Erne Resort or Dungannon GC follow the links

For more info on golf in Northern Ireland visit

The victorious 2015 ROI Team

The victorious 2015 ROI Team

Revamped Dunluce Links will be a top five contender claims Clarke

October 23, 2015
Ryder Cup captain and former Open winner Darren Clarke stands with the claret jug on the 6th tee at Royal Portrush Golf Club overlooking the White Rocks

Ryder Cup captain and former Open winner Darren Clarke stands with the claret jug on the 6th tee at Royal Portrush Golf Club overlooking the White Rocks

Royal Portrush is getting a make-over ahead of the 2019 Open Championship with Darren Clarke predicting the changes will power the Dunluce Link into the upper echelons of the world rankings.
Two new holes will be created to replace the current 17th and 18th holes freeing up that land to be used to accommodate the spectator village and Championship infrastructure.
A series of other changes are being made to the course under the watchful eye of Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert the club’s golf course architects, while remaining true to the ethos of Harry Colt’s original design.
“With the changes Martin is implementing, if this is not ranked in the top five in the world, I’ll be amazed,” said the 2011 Open Champion.
“This is as fair a links course as you’ll ever play. The thing about Portrush is that with the new tees, and the ones that are there, it’s so playable. There’s not many blind shots, everything is in front of you.

“You can work the ball into the greens here, you can run the ball in, which to me in the sign of a great links course. In my opinion, to be a good links player you have to be able to manage your trajectory and here you have the option to hit it along the ground if you have the talent to do so. That’s what Portrush gives you.”

The 2016 Ryder Cup captain admitted that he was initially sceptical about some of the changes proposed by Ebert but he was eventually convinced that the essential character of the course would not be diluted.
“The more I looked at them I could see the changes were going to make the course better. There’s a difference between making it tougher and making it better. He’s making it better and there’s a big difference,” added Darren.
“Who can say what Harry Colt would have done to the course now, but the changes aren’t massively different to what was there. It’s just a case of bringing the course up to a more modern links challenge. I can’t praise Martin Ebert highly enough as he is providing a modern lift to one of the best courses in the world.”

Keep up to date with the course changes via this blog by Graeme Beatt the Head Greenkeeper –

Watch a video describing the changes in detail  –

Visualisation of how the new eighth tee shot will look

Visualisation of how the new eighth tee shot will look

Bringing the Open Championship back to Royal Portrush? Even the weather played ball!

October 21, 2015
(L-R) Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, Sir Richard McLaughlin, Captain of Royal Portrush Golf Club, Acting First Minister the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster MLA, Darren Clarke, Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal  St George's in 2011 and a member at Royal Portrush, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA, Peter Unsworth, Chairman of The R&A's Championship Committee, and Martin Ebert, Course Architect pose with the Claret Jug at the announcement that The Open will return to Royal Portrush in 2019

(L-R) Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, Sir Richard McLaughlin, Captain of Royal Portrush Golf Club, Acting First Minister the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster MLA, Darren Clarke, Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal St George’s in 2011 and a member at Royal Portrush, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA, Peter Unsworth, Chairman of The R&A’s Championship Committee, and Martin Ebert, Course Architect pose with the Claret Jug at the announcement that The Open will return to Royal Portrush in 2019

It has taken many varied elements to come together in order to bring the Open Championship back to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years.
The major success of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke shone a spotlight on Ireland and forced people to address the issue – why can’t the Open Championship come back to Royal Portrush?
When you throw in a sell-out Irish Open in 2012, government willingness and the ambition of the members at the North Coast club who accepted proposed changes to the Dunluce Links, the answer very quickly became not so much if but when?
It seems that even our notoriously unpredictable climate played a significant role in convincing R&A officials to plump for July 18-21, 2019.
“A lot of things could have impacted on the announcement,” said the club’s Head Professional, Gary McNeill.
“We have had the most incredible weather through September. That was the one thing that potentially could have gotten in the way. It allowed the guys doing the construction work on the course to make incredible progress.

“I think that contributed to why the R&A are so comfortable about bringing the event here in 2019. They know that everything will be ready well in advance. We were very lucky.”

Course preparations and the work to create two new holes are well underway. The new 7th and 8th holes will utilise land from the adjacent Valley Course to develop a new par 5 hole, playing down into the valley encompassing that course’s 6th hole, and then a par four, playing back over its 5th hole into some beautiful duneland.
The new holes will replace the current 17th and 18th holes on the Dunluce Links, freeing up that land to be used to accommodate the spectator village and Championship infrastructure.
As well as creating two new holes, a series of other changes are being made to the course to enhance the challenge that will face the world’s top golfers while remaining true to the ethos of Harry Colt’s original design.
The work is being overseen by Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert the Club’s golf course architects.

A visualisation of how the 18th green (the current 16th) will look in 2019

A visualisation of how the 18th green (the current 16th) will look in 2019

The official announcement has come as something of a relief for everyone at the club who can now focus on getting everything in place to stage the event.
“We have probably known for the last couple of months,” added Gary who succeeded the late Dai Stevenson in 1999.
“When you think about it, it is only last summer that we had the announcement we were back on the rota.
“The earliest we were told we could host the event was 2019. Here we are just 16 month later and we are confirming the year and even the date it is taking place.
“It is just brilliant. The dust will settle in a day or two and we will get stuck in.”
And he continued; “The Irish Open proved that we could handle a big event, the infrastructure, crowds and transport issues etc. That was the cataylst that drove this forward. Then you had Rory and Darren and Graeme bringing publicity to the area.
“Once you put everything together and look at the quality of the golf course and potentially, the changes which will really enhance it, you have the whole package.”


Campbell savours team success with Ireland

August 17, 2015
Colm Campbell (Ireland) bunkered at the 11th green on the first day of the 2015 Home International Matches at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Colm Campbell (Ireland) bunkered at the 11th green on the first day of the 2015 Home International Matches at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Picture by Pat Cashman

Ireland’s remarkable summer of amateur success shows no signs of running out of steam.
Victory in the Home Internationals at Royal Portrush earned Ireland back-to-back titles for the first time since 1992 and they did so without three of their more experienced players in Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass), Gary Hurley (West Waterford), and Paul Dunne (Greystones) who are in America, preparing for the US Amateur Championship.
It was a personal triumph for Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell who made the telling contribution in the final match against Wales, wrapping up a 4&3 victory over Greig Marchbank to put Ireland over the line.
Campbell formed a formidable foursomes partnership with John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) and finished the event unbeaten with 5.5 points out of six, earning the Player of the Tournament award.
“I put it right up there as the highlight of my career alongside winning East of Ireland Championship,” said Colm.

“To stay undefeated was a great achievement and then to cap it all off by winning the player of the tournament. It was a great week all round.”

Ireland made a shaky start to the Championship, drawing their opening tie with England 7.5-7.5 but they improved from there, beating Wales 9.5-5.5 before crushing Scotland 11-4.
“There is a great connection between the Ireland players, everyone gets on really well and I think that’s a great reflection on Irish golf at the minute,” added Colm.
“Look at the team, we had a couple of potential Walker Cup players, and a host of Championship winners in Stuart Grehan, Dermot McElroy and John Ross Galbraith but there are no egos, no-one running around saying they are better than anyone else.
“It’s great to be part of that environment and it seeps out onto the course. On Friday everyone else was finished and John Ross was the only player out on the course, but everyone went out to watch him play the last couple of holes, that speaks volumes.”
Galbraith finished the event with 4.5 points out of six and relished the opportunity to play the anchor role at the bottom of the singles order throughout the week.
“Tony [Goode – Irish Captain] said at the start of the week that he was going to put me in the anchor role,” said Galbraith, winner of the North of Ireland Championship back in July.

“It was nice to get that vote of confidence, that if it came down to me he had trust in me to come through. I enjoy that – when the pressure on – it almost makes me play better.

“It was a great week. Me and Colly [Campbell] sort of said at the start of the week that we fancied playing together in the foursomes. We thought we could do well together and we gelled really well and played some good golf.
“Everyone on the team was playing well and I always thought we were going to be hard to beat, so it was really good to pull it off.”
With Walker Cup selection on the horizon hopes are high that Ireland could have five representatives in the team to face America at Royal Lytham & St Annes (September 12-13).

Galbraith last man standing after battle for survival at Royal Portrush

July 18, 2015
Andrew Spence, Principal Optometrist at Cathedral Eye Clinic, presents the trophy to Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith, winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship 2015

Andrew Spence, Principal Optometrist at Cathedral Eye Clinic, presents the trophy to Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith, winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship 2015

Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith edged out Rosslare’s Gary Collins on the 20th hole to win the Cathedral Eye sponsored North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush on Friday.
Played in demanding conditions with winds gusting to almost 50mph, Galbraith trailed by two at the 12th but clawed his way back into contention and actually lead by one playing the 18th only to lose out to a par from Collins.
The duo went down the 19th and Collins had a short par putt to win but the ball somehow stayed above ground and Galbraith, the reigning Irish Close Champion, finally closed the match out with a birdie on the 20th – the only one made by either player in the final.
“It’s the same every time in tournaments here. They send you out in horrific conditions. If it was a pro event you wouldn’t be near the course. You’re thinking to yourself, ‘what are we doing out here?,” said Galbraith who saw his ball and his opponent’s ball blown off the green at the fifth.
Ulster branch officials made the decision to water the greens as the final progressed, a move that went a long way to getting the tournament completed. A number of rain showers also helped to slow the greens down, preventing the balls from blowing around.
“The long game was tough, but it was playable. On the greens it was so difficult. Trying to get putts on-line was practically impossible,” added Galbraith.
“The watering stopped the balls oscillating which made a difference but it was still difficult keeping your balance over your putts. It really got to me, I felt like going crazy on the some of the greens but I reminded myself that he [Collins] was in the same boat as myself and I dug deep to try and grind it out.
“When I went two down at the 12th I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to hole anything in this wind’!

“I was relying on Gary gifting me a hole or I was going to have to hit an approach really close. I just kept telling myself to hang in and something will happen and it did. I played pretty steady over those closing holes.

“I’m delighted to win it, it’s such a big tournament, especially for players from Northern Ireland. This is one trophy I always wanted to win.”
Earlier in the day Galbraith had seen off Lurgan’s David Sutton but only after an almighty fright. Sutton was out of the blocks early and was four up after five holes before Galbraith finally shock himself awake with a birdie at the sixth. Seemingly inspired he won the next three holes to turn for home all square.
Sutton won the 10th but JR fought back again rolling in a birdie putt at the 11th. The 12th and 13th were halved before the match turned in Galbraith’s favour at ‘Calamity’ when he fired in a brilliant three wood to 10 feet for another birdie. A par at the 15th put him two up and he halved the 16th and 17th to wrap up a 2&1 victory.
Collins beat Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty on the 20th in the second semi-final, fighting back from two down with two to play to prevail courtesy of a birdie.

Sutton strikes blow for working amateurs at North of Ireland Championship

July 17, 2015

Royal Portrush GC

Lurgan’s David Sutton struck a blow for the working amateur by reaching the semi-finals of the Cathedral Eye sponsored North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush yesterday.
The 34-year-old father of two held off 19-year-old Rowan Lester (The Hermitage) to set up an all-Ulster meeting with reigning Irish Close Champion, John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead).
In weather conditions that worsened throughout the day, Sutton’s experience and relaxed approach helped him stem an early onslaught before gradually working his way back into the tie.
“I played good in the rain. Sometimes I don’t play so well in the rain but I managed to hole a couple of decent putts. I knew I had to, he was doing nothing wrong, he is a class wee player,” said Sutton, an export sales manager for local golf firm MD Golf.
The Lockerbie native, a North of Ireland semi-finalist in 2011, was two down after six but won the seventh and ninth in regulation pars to turn for home all square.
Lester, beaten in the final of the British Boys Amateur last year, responded immediately with birdies at the 10th and 11th but once again Sutton showed no signs of panic.
He clawed another hole back at the 12th, lost the 13th but birdied the 14th and 15th to level matters with three holes remaining.
The 16th and 17th were halved in par and then, with both players in trouble off the tee, Sutton somehow managed to salvage a par to win the tie, rolling in a par putt from 15 feet on the last.
A former Scottish international, Sutton’s work and family commitments keep his championship appearances to a minimum these days. The North of Ireland tournament doubles as a family holiday and he admits it is a hard balancing act.
“I love coming up to the ‘North’ because if the golf doesn’t work out it is a great wee holiday. My mum and dad are here. My Dad – Brian – always caddies for me as well,” said David.

“We have been very busy in work this last few months and then when you get home you spend time with the kids so I don’t get to practise or play that much.”

On a day which saw a number of the favourites lose out, amongst them Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) and Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), Sutton had earlier edged out leading qualifier Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) in the last 16 by a single shot.
Galbraith also found things more taxing yesterday and was forced to dig deep to see off Knock’s Colin Fairweather in the last 16. One down through 16, John Ross, chipped in for eagle at the par five 17 and then birdied the 18th to eventually edge home by a single hole.
His quarter-final against Ronan Mullarney (Galway) was nip and tuck over the opening nines holes before he took charge around the turn, eagling the 10th to go one up and chipping in at the 11th to extend that lead.
Mullarney dragged one back on the 12th, the 13th was halved in pars before Galbraith bagged a two at the 14th firing a four iron in 10 feet. The 15th was halved in par fours and then Mullarney found trouble at the 16th and eventually conceded the hole.
Today’s second semi-final pitts Gary Collins (Rosslare) against Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) who claimed the biggest scalp of his career in beating McElroy by one hole in the last eight.
“I was two down after five. I had been hitting it well all week and then I started off by hitting it sideways!” said the 22-year-old.
“I’m delighted to get as far as I did. To take out Dermy, he wasn’t at his best, neither of us played great but I just dug in a bit better. To take out someone like that is big, sure I’m a nobody.”

North of Ireland Amateur Championship
Sponsored by Cathedral Eye Clinic
At Royal Portrush
JR Galbraith v D Sutton
G Collins v C Rafferty
Final – 12.30pm

Round Three
S Coulter lost to R Dawson 19th; G Collins bt C Campbell 2&1; C Rafferty bt F Mason 5&3; D McElroy bt W Hanna 3&2; JR Galbraith bt C Fairweather 1hole; R Mullarney bt P McBride 19th; D Sutton bt G Lenehan 1hole; R Lester bt D Holland 3&2
G Collins bt Dawson 3&2; C Rafferty bt D McElroy 1hole; JR Galbraith bt R Mullarney 3&2; D Sutton by R Lester 1hole