The 2013 committee’s prize semi-finals and finals took place on Sunday last in a beautiful sun-filled Collinstown. This competition has been popular among the members since its inception a number of year’s back. It was the brain-child of the then chairman, Paddy Browne. The idea was that the players with the top 4 total scores from the Wednesday night Player of the Year competitions, that did not qualify for the Player of the Year semies, would qualify for the committees prize semies – a kind of Europa league equivalent. The idea being that the committee give back something to the players who attended each Wednesday night and did not make it into the Player of the Year semies.
This year we had a very even semi-final line-up. Defending champion Martin Carter was up against last year’s beaten finalist in the Player of the Year, Stuart Tarleton. The second semi-final was between a very in form Stephen Ruane and one of the most improved players in the club this year, Mick Scally.
Martin and Stuart were first to do battle and this game proved to be a high quality match. Martin shot 6 under par in the opening 18 holes to take a slender lead. With 10 holes remaining Martin still led by a single hole but then Tarleton changed gears. Wins on holes 9 and 11 with shots, coupled with a birdie on 10 gave the Mullingar man a two hole lead. A further win on 15 again with a shot left the match dormie with Tarleton 3 up with 3 to play. Carter is never known as one to give up though and birdies on 16 and 17 from the big man took the game to the final hole. Carter hit a fine pitch to 8 feet putting the pressure onto to Stewie. A miss-hit tee-shot from Tarleton left him with a near impossible chip over the newly constructed bunker. However most agreed what happened next was the chip of the day. Somehow Tarleton managed to get his chip to 3 feet and when Carter missed his birdie, Tarleton’s par putt to win was a formality.
The second semi-final proved to be even closer. Stephen Ruane produced the same high level of pitch and putt that is now expected of this man. He dominated the early stages of the match and many felt the game was over when he left the 3rd hole on the second round with a 5 hole advantage. Scally would not lie down though and a combination of birdies, good use of his shots on certain holes and generally good pitch and putt, seen the Mullingar man claw the match back to all square with 3 to play. The 3 handicapper that was Stephen Ruane would surely still have been considered favourite in this situation but no one had told Scally this. Scall hit his pitch to 3 feet on 16 and rolled in birdie to take the lead for the first time in the match. Indeed Scall hit another fine pitch to 17 but uncharacteristically missed his putt to win the match. Stephen took full advantage to birdie the last and force tie-holes. Both men had birdie putts from distance on the first tie-hole but neither converted. Mick then had a shot on the second and cleverly took the bunker out of play by pitching left of the green. He chipped up impressively to two feet and as Stephen had not made birdie, he rolled in the putt to win the nail-biting match.
And so the two good mates from Mullingar met in the final. Mick took an early lead but Tarleton as he had done in the semi-final, stayed calm and solid and clawed it back. Stewie’s experience started to tell then in the business end of the match as he pulled away with vital birdies at the right time. It looked curtains for Mick as he faced the final 3 holes, 3 behind. But as was the order of the day, he did not give up and won both the 16th and 17th to take it down the final hole. Unfortunately though he could not find birdie on the final hole and Stewie rolled in his par putt to take the title.
Stewie was, as ever, jovial in his acceptance speech, but he did pay respect to both of his opponents on the day for the tough matches they had given him. He also thanked the committee for the manner in which the competitions were ran all year.