A TRULY remarkable achievement for Deerpark’s Pitch & Putt Club’s  Damien Fleming on Monday at the National Mens Matchplay Championships as he came from behind to clinch victory over defending champion Bryan Delaney of Cork.

Damien is now the first man ever to be the holder of a triple crown of National Matchplay, National Strokeplay and Irish Open titles at the one time!

9Playing out of his adopted course of Rocklodge, Damien was seeded second in advance of the event and began his campaign with a 4&3 victory over another former Irish Open winner in Eamon Gibney of Meath on Saturday. Damien came through three matches on Saturday to advance to Monday’s Semi-Finals. He started Sunday with an 8&6 victory over Dubliner Anthony Malone before finishing strongly in a tricky encounter with Tipperary’s Shane Hoare to reach Sunday evening’s Quarter-Finals. He played the man he beat in the 2011 Final of the competition, Cork’s Chris Scannell, as despite trailing by one during the second 18, Damien powered ahead again to win out by 5&4.

9Monday’s Semi-Final with Munster Senior Matchplay winner Shane Murphy of Rocklodge itself was always expected to be a tight affair, and so it was as Damien just eked ahead by 1up on the last with Murphy just missing a birdie putt to force a playoff. As tight as that match was, it did not have half the drama of the final as despite Damien getting a Hole-In-One on the 7th he found himself hanging on to defending champion Delaney’s coattails with the Cork play 12 under par for his first 15 holes in Damien trailing by three at the halfway stage.

9When Delaney went 5up with 13 holes it play it looked like Damien’s chance was slipping away but slowly but surely he whittled down the lead to draw level by the 16th hole before going ahead for the first time in the encounter at the penultimate hole! Delaney did stick his ball just below the pin on the 18th as Damien missed a subsequent putt to win the title outright as sudden death would be required to decide the winner. Delaney’s tee-shot bounced off the green meaning Damien would get a putt for the title again at the first playoff hole and he made no mistake this time in claiming his second National Matchplay and complete a remarkable 12 months from last July’s National Strokeplay and last August’s Irish Open victories!

The win is Kerry’s third success in the competition after Damien’s Deerpark club-mate Derry McCarthy’s win in 2004 and it is a sixth major singles honour for Damien in the game after three Irish Opens, the National Strokeplay and now two Matchplays after his first Irish Open win 10 years ago. Elsewhere in the competition Tralee’s Jason O’Regan and Listowel’s Kevin McCarron were beaten in the Second Round as Tony Blake of Tralee lost to Delaney in the opening match of the competition on Sunday. Tralee’s Lisa O’Connor was beaten in the First Round of the Ladies Nett event as she to eventual winner Sarah O’Neill of Cork.

Also on Monday the Tralee Scratch Cup took place with Jamie Blake the winner by two strokes with 18 under par for 54 holes ahead of club-mate Jason Cregan with another Tralee player Alan Hobbart third on 14 under par. Eamonn Sheehy won the Last 18 prize with eight under while there was one stroke between first and second in the Intermediate and Junior sections. Tralee’s Danny O’Leary got the better of Deerpark’s Gearoid Cronin with five under as Ger Guerin of Listowel got the better of Newmarket’s Willie Buckley with a score of four over par.

Lisa O’Connor of Tralee won the Ladies Prize with a score of 131 as this weekend sees the first Kerry U-16 team trial in Deerpark at 9am followed by the adult County Strokeplay Championships in Castleisland on Sunday.

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