English golfer James Claridge ended hometown favourite Barry Anderson’s fairytale journey back to the final to claim the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
The Enville sensation secured a 6&5 win in the matchplay final of the Centenary event after he overpowered the 2017 champion in the rain-soaked early holes on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the difficult conditions, the 20-year-old battled his way to a 4up lead through seven holes. He also claimed the 11th and 12th holes and there was no way back for Anderson.
Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy (twice) and Shane Lowry have all been crowned champions of the West in previous years and Claridge was thrilled to join an illustrious list.
“It’s pretty cool isn’t it. You don’t really think about it when you’re playing, you’re just out here trying to get the job done but it means a lot to be in company with people like that,” said Claridge.
“I won last week at Berkhamsted and you’ve got names like Andy Sullivan and Tom Lewis, but when your name’s in the company with those kind of boys you’re really talking.
“I struggled last year I remember I missed the cut at the East, I missed the cut at the Scottish, I missed the cut at the British, three in a row. I rang my Dad and told him I didn’t want to play golf anymore.
“And then I had some off-course issues, sorted those out. Got in my new coach and really just tried to start all over. I mean I played pretty well before that, I had won, but I started all over. It seems to be doing pretty well at the minute.”
Anderson continued his dream week with a brilliant 1up win over Shane McDermott (Slieve Russell) in the second semi-final on Monday morning.
The Cavan golfer had raced into a 2up lead after just three holes but Anderson won the next four holes and he was 2up at the turn. A par at 16 was enough for McDermott to tie it up again only for Anderson to win the next hole and hold out for victory.
Meanwhile, Claridge had been taken to the 20th hole of his clash with Marc Boucher. The Carton House golfer went 2up early in that match but Claridge battled back and his trusty putter eventually sealed his place in the decider.
Claridge’s supreme putting shone bright in the final again and once he parred the first he was in the ascendency.
This makes it two wins in a row for the Staffordshire youngster who just last week claimed the Berkhamsted Trophy. And with the Walker Cup just around the corner, he knows this form could put him in contention for a place.
“To win two solid events in pretty good fields, you have got Hugh Foley, Peter O’Keeffe, Arron Edwards-Hill who are in the practise squad,” said Claridge.
“My goal this week was as long as I did better than them and keep pushing my name forward. I’m really looking forward to the top four, you know Lytham, Brabs, St Andrews, British and see what I can do there. It just seems to be going my way at the minute.”
However for Anderson it was a difficult defeat to take, he had a phenomenal week but was not able to back up his success in 2017.
“It's a little bit hard to process at the moment,” said Anderson.
“If you had told me I was going to get to the final at the start of the week I would have probably ripped your arm off for it. Once you’re that close it’s just heartbreaking. You’re so close but it’s just not good enough at the end.”