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Newton sweeps field aside for major win

​Five shot win for Macclesfield man with Purcell in second place

  • 19 May 2019

​PHOTO: With the iconic Ben Beulben in the background, James Newton pictured with the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship trophy. Image by Cashman Photography.

Not even a late triple bogey could derail England's James Newton on his march to victory at the Flogas Irish Amateur Open in Co Sligo.
 
Five clear at the start of play, Newton ended the round as he had begun: five strokes better than the rest and more than worthy to finish as the week's best. His closest challenger, Portmarnock's Conor Purcell, conceded that the championship had turned into a battle to be runner up.

 
"I was always playing for second really," said Purcell. "He [Newton] was comfortable after nine. To shoot the score he did with the lead he had was pretty impressive."
 
Newton recovered from an early wobble and survived a late scare to capture his first major championship. The 24 year old from Macclesfield kept the field at bay throughout a difficult final round. He closed with 74 to finish at nine under par.
 
"I knew that I could win," said Newton. "One of my goals was to win a 72 hole event. I've ticked that off quite early. I need to go back and re-evaluate my goals now."
 
Newton began with three bogeys but quickly recovered and although he tripled the 16th coming home, he had enough shots in hand to withstand the blow.
 
"It's nice to have a win early on in the season," Newton reflected. "And I know that I can do it again this year so I just need to go and do it."
 
At the start of the week, Newton's name was not among the list of favourites. He travelled by ferry from Holyhead with precious few credentials. Over the past four seasons, he has hurtled down the world rankings, from top 50 to obscurity.
 
"I changed coach last October and moved to Peter Barber at Didsbury Golf Club," Newton explained. "The good has always been good enough and he [Barber] has made the bad a lot better."
 
Two rounds of 66 testified to the quality of his game. Two ahead at the halfway stage, Newton punched in 69 after round three to bolster his lead. In the end, he succeeded by a distance.
 
After a rocky start, he recalibrated at the fourth. Newton coughed up three bogeys but a welcome birdie on number four changed his demeanour. Another followed at the fifth, where he got up and down for his four, and he continued on a steady course from there.
 
A lank, lithe figure Newton has a background in martial arts. At the age of 10, he had a black belt in karate. His athletic ability was evident off the tee. With the driver, he had up to 40 yards on his playing partners and he provided a forceful demonstration on number eight, which played as the hardest hole on the course. He powered his way to a rare birdie three with a four iron to the green.
 
Hopes of a home success quickly dwindled amid the wind and rain at Rosses Point. First round leader, Ronan Mullarney, lying second overnight, endured a dismal day. Mullarney carded a course record 62 in Thursday's opening round but parted with 78, which left him nine shots off the pace in fifth place.
 
In the second last group, Conor Purcell found a way to cope with the grind. The Dubliner made his move on the front nine at Co Sligo, reaching seven under at the turn, but Newton did not bow under the pressure.
 
Purcell closed with 72 to finish runner up on four under. His form no doubt will have pleased the watching Walker Cup selectors.
 
"All you can do is put yourself in the mix," said Purcell when asked about his Walker Cup prospects. "I've had what I consider a good start to the year. I just need to push on from here."
 
As a result of his strong showing at Co Sligo, Purcell goes top on the Bridgestone Order of Merit. Tied second at the West of Ireland in April, Purcell's consistency has helped him become Ireland's number one.
 
"For the two Irish events I've played, I've had two seconds so couldn't have asked for more," said Purcell, who returns to club action with Portmarnock next week in the AIG Barton Shield.
 
The winner, Newton, moves on with confidence to face new challenges. For many players, those final round mistakes would have been fatal but Newton responded like a champion.


Final scores: https://www.golfnet.ie/GUILive#/competition/1743715/leaderboard