The Group stages of this year’s Michael Flynn Claret Jug took place on Saturday last on a blustery showery morning. There were 30 competitors in this year’s competition and these were split into 8 groups with the top two from each group qualifying for the knockout stages on the 6th July.
The opening match on the course saw Moira Nugent take on the highly fancied Mark Ayres. The Claret Jug always produces shock results though and our first match of the day kept this tradition going. Moira made numerous birdies in her 3 & 2 victory over Mark. Next up was Martin Carroll against Tommy Archbold. Martin hit a fine vein of form early on in this match to run out an easy winner. Next up was Martin Carroll against Moira and on this occasion, Moira had no answer to Martin’s good play so Martin got his second victory of the day. Meanwhile Mark Ayres was getting the better of Tommy Archbold in the other group match. The final round of matches saw Moira defeat Tommy Archbold and Mark Ayres defeat Martin Carroll leaving it a three way tie at the top of the table between Moira, Martin and Mark. This meant that each player had to play the other two in sudden death match play. Mark Ayres beat both Moira and Martin to qualify. Then Martin missed a par putt on the first in his play-off against Moira to send Moira through as well.
Group A qualifiers: Mark Ayres & Moira Nugent
Kevin Farrell had a bye in his opening match of this group as the sponsor Michael Flynn was unable to play due to injury. The other match was a keenly fought affair between Darren Reilly and Stephen Ruane with Stephen coming out on top. Next up it was Kevin Farrell to play Darren Reilly and this time Darren found some form and managed to defeat Kevin. Kevin however was not to be put out that easy as he defeated last year’s runner-up Stephen Ruane in the third match of the group. This once again left a three way tie at the top between these three players. In the play-offs Darren Reilly defeated both men so it was a shoot out between Stephen and Kevin for the second spot. Stephen eventually came out on top on the second tie-hole.
Group B qualifiers: Darren Reilly & Stephen Ruane
Group C turned out to be an non-event with both Larry McGinn and Watty Kenny unable to attend on the day. This meant that John McDonald and Ena Clinton had byes straight into the knockout stages.
Group C qualifiers: John McDonald & Ena Clinton
Group D was labeled beforehand as the group of death with three former winners in it, George Carolan, Mick Heffernan and Clive Byrne. Add to that the experienced Charlie Nolan and it really was the group from hell. The opening match was between George Carolan and Mick Heffernan. After a mammoth battle George came out on top by a margin of 2 & 1. Meanwhile Clive Byrne was getting the better of Charlie Nolan in the other match. The second round of matches seen George victorious again – this time over Charlie while Mick Heffernan got his first win of the day against Clive. Mick won again in his last match against Charlie and when Clive got the better of George we were faced with a three-way play-off once more. George Carolan booked his place in the last 16 with a win on the first hole against Mick Heffernan. Clive then beat Mick on the second tie-hole to claim his place in the last 16 also.
Group D qualifiers: George Carolan & Clive Byrne
With Maurice Middleton unable to attend due to work commitments, this group saw John Flanagan up against father and son. Paddy and John Browne. Flanagan, the seasoned campaigner made light work of his opening match against Paddy Browne running out a 4 & 3 winner. Paddy bite back in the next match though defeating his son John by 2 & 1. That meant that John needed a victory against John Flanagan in the last match to once again force a three-way play-off. The match was nip and tuck all the way and Browne led by 1 going to the last. Flanagan pitched to 4 feet to put on the pressure but Browne responded pitching inside him. When Flanagan missed the birdie putt we were off to tie-holes again between all three men. Paddy Browne agonizingly left his birdie putt short on the first for the win against John Flanagan and then lost on the second giving him a shot. Paddy then needed to beat son, John to stay alive. Once again his putt to win the first play-off hole lipped out and when he found sand on the second, he knew his day was over.
Group E qualifiers: John Flanagan & John Browne
Group F saw the only man to win all three matches on the day. Michael Scally dispensed of Peter Dolan, Anne Kelly and Paddy Gorman for a 100% record in the group and top qualifier. So the rest were playing for second spot! Anne Kelly and Paddy Gorman drew their opening match – the only drawn match all day! Paddy Gorman then beat Peter Dolan which left Peter with a second lose and out of the competition. Anne could still qualify if she could manage to beat Peter in the last match though. However it did not go Anne’s way and she eventually lost 2 & 1.
Group F qualifiers: Mick Scally & Paddy Gorman
Group G was the first of our two, three-person groups. First up was Stuart Tarleton against Paddy Bardon. Stewie ran out a comfortable winner in this one. Stewie then had Leo Ryan next. Again Stewie was an easy winner and booked his spot in the next round. Leo then conceded his final match against Paddy Bardon, thus giving Paddy the second qualifying spot.
Group G qualifiers: Stuart Tarleton & Paddy Bardon
And so to the final group and once again – what a tight affair this turned out to be. First out was the Glenidan friends, Martin Carter and Liam Buckley. Martin played super stuff in this match to close it out on the 16th. Martin then got some of his own medicine in the next match when he took on an inspired Willie Ayres. Willie won this match but when he lost the final match to Liam we were left with sudden death play-offs for the fifth time that day. Martin won the opening battle with Liam when Liam made an unfortunate bogie at the first. Liam then lost his second play-off against Willie on the second tie-hole which meant the former two-time champ was out.
Group H qualifiers: Martin Carter & Willie Ayres
All in all it was a superb days Pitch & Putt with numerous cliff-hanger endings and no doubt there will be more to come on day 2 of this competition on the 6th July.