Saturday, August 20, 2016

Gleeson goes one better to win Irish title

Beaten finalist in 2015, Castle’s Alex Gleeson finally got his hands on the trophy as he went all the way at Ballyliffin to capture the AIG Irish Close Championship today
Gleeson defeated John Ross Galb​​raith in the final, winning his first men's championship in convincing fashion. Ahead from the sixth, Gleeson was four clear on the back nine but had to withstand a late rally from Galbraith as the heavens opened.
Eventually the title was his when he parred 17 and as the rain gave way, Galbraith embraced the new champion.
“There’s a lot of really good names on that trophy, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” said Gleeson. “I’m absolutely over the moon, I can’t really put into words how happy I am.”
A winner four times last season, Gleeson wanted to put a major title to his name in 2016.
“I really wanted a championship this year. I felt my game was good enough,” he said and so it proved during a memorable week for the 22-year-old.
By winning the silver medal for leading qualifier, Galbraith came into the knockout stages as the number one seed. Gleeson was cast in the bottom half of the draw, where he faced one international after another.
To reach the final four, Gleeson had to overcome Ireland teammates Robin Dawson and Colin Fairweather. Paired with Royal Portrush teenager Peter Kerr in the semi-finals, Gleeson faced an even tougher battle as Kerr took him the distance.
“I knew I needed to do something on 18. When I hit one in tight there, that was massive. It was a really tight one to get through this morning,” said Gleeson describing his semi-final encounter, which was only decided when Kerr bogeyed the last.
“I had a tough route but you’re always going to get tough matches in the Close so you’re going to have to play well,” said Gleeson, who found himself all square going down 18 against Kerr
Galbraith’s path to the final was more straightforward, a 3 and 1 win against Newlands’ Jake Whelan and with the silver medal already in the bag, a second championship looked a good bet.
“It would have been the dream week but it wasn’t to be,” said Galbraith, magnanimous in defeat. “Alex is the deserved winner. He played well. He played really solid today.”
Four behind with six to play, Galbraith did not go down without a fight and holed clutch putts at 13, 14 and 15 to revive his challenge. As he studied a 25-foot birdie putt on 16, Galbraith was still staring defeat in the face. With Gleeson just 12 feet away, Galbraith found the cup to keep the match alive.
“That’s JR, he’s so clutch,” said Gleeson, explaining his conviction that Galbraith would make the putt. “I know how good he is down the stretch. Having a lead on him coming to the last four or five holes was massive.”
When the pursuit was finished, Gleeson’s ecstasy was palpable. A year ago, he knew the agony of defeat.
“I knew the mistakes I made last year going into that final and I didn’t make them this year. Playing in the final last year was a massive help for this year. I was a lot calmer and composed this year than I was last year,” he said.Returning home a national champion, Gleeson’s name now adorns an illustrious roll of honour. And despite his defeat in the final, it was also a good week for Galbraith as he clinched the silver medal.
The Close has also been a thrill for 18-year-old semi-finalist Peter Kerr.
“It was good fun, I enjoyed it,” said Kerr. “I was three down after 11 in my first match and there I was, one hole away from the final. You have to realise you never give up because you never know what’s going to happen."



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