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County Armagh Golf Club Northern Ireland

County Armagh Golf Club Northern Ireland

A strong and bustling 170-man field competed gamely for County Armagh Golf Club's historic Hirsch Cup on 28 April but no one was a match for eventual champion, Patrick Brannigan.

A ragged spell of four dropped shots in as many holes immediately before the turn was Brannigan's only genuine wobble as, elsewhere in the event sponsored by Netstretch Internet Services, he gave his rivals little reason for hope.

A birdie at the 6th was the highlight of a winning round that also featured a streak of four consecutive pars on the way out and another six in a row on the back nine.

The heavy ground and penal rough continues to result in largely conservative scoring across the board, so this was a terrific performance from Patrick.

He would ultimately sign for a terrific nett 66 that, in addition to putting some silverware on the mantelpiece early in the season, returns the Ulster Cup stalwart to single-figure handicap status.

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Hirsch Cup winner, Patrick Brannigan, is presented with the trophy by Cormac Knott from Netstretch Internet Services, competition sponsors. Also pictured are County Armagh Golf Club Captain, Colm Shannon, and other prizewinners Shea Smyth, Brian Hughes and Brian Cleland.

The overall runner-up position also had a popular occupant in the shape of Brian Hughes. The former planning officer plotted his way around the course to great effect and finished just one shot back from Brannigan.

A run of 6, 6, 6 in the middle of the front nine was devilish, but Beechy's seven pars were angelic and much more reflective of his generally excellent display. Hughes's happy Saturday was topped off by a one-shot handicap cut.

In category 1, Shea Smyth and Tom Fox both returned fine nett 68s but the latter's better back nine showing decided the result in his favour.

Tom's impressive 80-stroke scorecard showed one birdie and, perhaps equally significantly, just one double bogey, while Smyth's marvellous gross 71 was typical of his early season form.

The same nett 68 total prevailed in category 2, where Brian Cleland registered a couple of pars on each nine during his pleasing outing.

Runner-up to Cleland on nett 69 was Miceal McParland, who was one under par for an outstanding sequence from the 11th to the 16th. Unfortunately, Miceal's earlier treble bogey at the 6th prevented him having a say further up the Hirsch leaderboard.

Norman Mallon proved his tournament victory six days earlier to be no flash in the pan by taking the category 3 honours here with a nett 68 that included half a dozen pars.

And Brian Rafferty became the day's third prize-winning Brian when his creditable nett 70 sealed second place in category 3.

The season's first gross award was claimed, fittingly, by the club's lowest handicapper, Philip Kelly. The scratch man's high-quality level-par offering comprised two bogeys, 15 pars and an eagle at the 12th.

Meanwhile, the first Wednesday competition of 2018 was held on 2 May. The Open Stableford was won by the red-hot Shea Smyth, whose consummate gross 68 yielded 41 points, while a solid 35 points earned the Senior Open plaudits for John Lowe.

Finally, there was a satisfying day for two of County Armagh's inter-club matchplay teams on Sunday 6 May.

Declan McReynolds's Jimmy Bruen charges successfully negotiated a qualifying session at Tandragee, where they came second behind the hosts to set up a first round clash with Cloverhill.

And, in the All-Ireland Fourball-Trophy, Tim Teahan's side will enter this weekend's second round second leg tie against Holywood in Armagh with justifiable optimism, having left Rory McIlroy's old stomping ground with two-and-a-half matches.