Ian Lynch wins North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush

Ian Lynch (Rosslare) winner of the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Ian Lynch (Rosslare) winner of the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club

Ian Lynch (Rosslare GC) won the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush GC yesterday.

The 29-year-old software engineer edged out Englishman, Kieran Babbage (The Players Club) 2&1 in Friday’s final.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I came up here for a bit of a family holiday and some golf and now I’m North of Ireland champion,” said Lynch moments after clinching vctory with a par on the 17th.

“It’s surreal to even say it, it’s unbelievable,” he added.

“I was playing ok before the tournament started.

“I won a scratch cup a month or so ago but still, this is a big step up.

“I played alright on the first day of qualifying on The Valley, shooting three under.

“I thought, ‘fair enough, you have a chance of making the matchplay stages now’.

“From then on I was just taking it one round at a time. Anything can happen in match play.

“In the first round I won on the 20th and then in the quarter-finals, I went to the 19th.

“If any of those tight matches go the wrong way I’m home early but thankfully, they went the right way today.”

In a tense final the duo couldn’t be split over the opening nine holes but Lynch then made his move, winning the 10th and 11th in par to go two clear.

Babbage was then forced to concede the 14th when he came to grief in a greenside bunker to fall three behind.

Although Lynch bogeyed 15, Babbage could not capitalise and that left him needing to win 16 to keep the match alive.

Lynch failed to find the green with his tee shot at the 16th and Babbage this time took advantage and made par to take the final down the penultimate hole. That was as far as they went.

Lynch found the fairway with his drive down the hill on 17 and pocketed a regulation par from 30 feet to take the title.

“I didn’t play great in the semi-final, kind of scraped it around and holed a few putts but in the final I played a lot better,” added Ian.

“Kieran threw a few birdies at me and I was playing par golf.

“If he birdied a hole to beat me I didn’t feel too bad about that but if he bogeyed my solid par stuff was winning me the hole.

“I made a mental error on 16, I should never have been anywhere near that flag.

“I should have been up the left all day but I almost had an unbelievable up and down from the valley in front of the green.

“That would have been a nice way to win but I’ll take doing it with a par on 17 any day.”

In the morning semi-finals Lynch saw off leading qualifier, Matthew McClean (Malone) 2&1 while Babbage finally beat Adam Mulhall (Ardglass) on the 19th hole.

Next year’s North of Ireland Championship will retain the same date but will move to Castlerock and Portstewart to accommodate final preparations for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.