The Tramore man’s wire-to-wire win will stand to him, writes Paul Gallagher
Winning isn’t easy. To go wire-to-wire is sensational. That long at the top inevitably brings its own pressure. Robin Dawson overcame such difficulties at Royal County Down and is the deserving new Flogas Irish Amateur Open champion.
Dawson (22) set his stall out early in Newcastle last week with a stunning six-under 65. It was no longer a case of timing his run. His opening round was so well crafted, he put himself out there to be shot down by the rest of the field.
It’s a round that stacks up against the best. Previous official course records stood at 66. Dawson’s 65 was played of the blue back tips. Later in the week the GUI sensibly moved tees up at the treacherous ninth and 15thbut on day one Dawson went about his work in all blue.
When a prestigious championship rolls into your own town, it’s always interesting to see how the elite players handle a course you make mistakes on week-in, week-out. Put aside striking prowess, or the strength and fearlessness of youth, course management and touch around the greens were key traits that propelled the successful ones to the top.
Links manager Eamonn Crawford and his team had Royal County Down in fantastic condition. Like all courses around the country, they were up against nature’s clock given the dire winter we all experienced. There is a skill to presenting a course for major championship weeks and Newcastle was shown in its best light with bright sunshine and testing winds.
The greens were running up to 12 on the stimpmeter and Dawson in particular was imperious with the blade.
There was a time when the closing stretch at Royal County Down was a place to make up shots. Not anymore, these days it’s more like hanging on for dear life. The par-four 15ththreatened to derail Dawson on the final day but the towering ginger (I say that amicably, coming from a horizontally challenged ginger) kept his composure for his first major championship in five years.
“Robin holed a great putt on 15. If there’s such a thing as a good triple bogey that was certainly one of them,” quipped GUI National Coach Neil Manchip, who was present to witness all the drama unfold.
“Going out [on the final day] with a six-shot lead is difficult. It can easily disappear, especially around Newcastle,” added Manchip, who understands Newcastle’s nuances better than most for this is where the Edinburgh native did his PGA training back in the day under Kevan Whitson.
Dawson may have worked hard for bogey at 17 and flirted with danger all the way up the par five 18th, but in the end he holed another clutch six-footer for par and was the only player to finish the week under par – his two-under 282 winning aggregate left him four ahead of Castle’s Alex Gleeson and England’s John Gough.
“There were a few sleepless nights the last couple of nights, I am just relieved. It was nice to do it over four rounds, especially at a venue like Royal County Down,” said a delighted Dawson immediately after his biggest win to date.
The Tramore man is set to move into the top 50 in this week’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and was immediately selected in the Ireland squad to compete in next month’s St Andrews Links Trophy and the European Amateur Championship.
After his achievements at Royal County Down, you sense there will be a spring in Dawson’s considerable step heading into a busy part of the season.