Golf: James Byrne lands his first pro victory
JAMES Byrne will swap Meldrum House for Malaysia today buoyed by his breakthrough victory in the professional ranks. It may not have arrived as quickly as he’d have liked. He will also be aiming for bigger and better things in the future. But a five-shot success in the Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open will do nicely for starters.
“This is a prestigious event with a lot of history and winning it feels great, even more so as I’m sponsored by Aberdeen Asset,” beamed 23-year-old Byrne having followed three straight 66s with a closing 70 for a 12-under-par total of 268 in the Tartan Tour event.
David Law, the defending champion, and David Orr both signed off with 69s to share second spot, one ahead of the fast-finishing Gareth Wright (66) and Greig Hutcheon, who got to within two shots of the leader after Byrne double-bogeyed the ninth, only to see his hopes of repeating a 2010 victory at the same venue undone by a “comedy of errors thereafter”.
Admitting he’d had a “shaky spell” in the middle of his round, Byrne was delighted to get the job done.
“It’s a long time since I led a tournament and I was a bit nervous at the start, but I played steady over the last six holes, which was pleasing,” said the Banchory man.
He is off to Malaysia this morning for two events on the Asian Tour before returning to Britain to launch his second attempt at the European Tour Qualifying School at Frilford Heath. “I can hopefully build on this,” he added. “Winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds winning.”
On a fairly benign final day, playing partners Byrne and Law made matching birdie 3s at the first, both holing 12-footers, before the latter almost holed his approach at the second. It set up an easy birdie and, with Byrne failing to make his 3 after getting close to the green from the tee, the gap between the pair was reduced straight away.
Both then dropped shots at the third, a par 3, after missing the green off the tee, but Byrne made amends at the next, holing from 15 feet for his second birdie of the day. Law did well to save his par there, producing a lovely chip from gravel close to a wall just off the left of the green. A blocked drive from the leader at the fifth left him having to hack out sideways from heavy rough. He then pulled his third, but produced a great up and down to salvage a par, the same as Law marked down on his card after he initially got unlucky with his approach and was then a tad clumsy with his pitch from through the back of the green.
The short sixth also proved painful for the defending champion. There, he was just off the back edge but above the hole and three-putted from around 15 feet, the only consolation being that Byrne also dropped a shot after he missed the green on the right. Despite his double-bogey at the ninth, Byrne was able to breath easily enough on the back nine, where Law reckoned his chance disappeared when he failed to convert an eight-foot birdie putt at the 11th. Nevertheless, he had reason to feel pleased with a stout defence of the crown. “The second and third rounds were as good as I’ve played this year,” admitted the 21-year-old.
The Bookless Cup, for the leading amateur, went to Balmore’s Fraser McKenna. Playing in his final event of the season, the 21-year-old closed with a 69 for 280, two less than Aberdour’s Scott Crichton and Adam Dunton (Royal Aberdeen).
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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