Monday, July 22, 2024

Max Kennedy and Sara Byrne show star potential but USA retain Palmer Cup in Lahinch

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The sides were tied 18-18 overnight, but the Americans won seven and a half crucial points as 13 of the 24 matches went to the final hole, winning the singles battle 14.5-9.5 to claim the title 32.5-27.5 and their first win on international soil since 2018.

Donegal’s Ryan Griffin fell by one hole to Maxwell Ford, while his Maynooth University team-mate Kate Lanigan lost just 2&1 to Mary Kelly Mulcahy, who became the first non-Division I selection in Palmer Cup history to go undefeated, winning her four matches.

Kennedy and Byrne got just half a point between them on a sun-scorched final day but they impressed a big gallery at the Co Clare links, which has the R&A licking its lips as it prepares to host the Walker Cup there in 2026.

While Byrne was three-up after 11 holes, Melanie Green repeated the sensational putting that saw her win the Women’s Amateur Championship at Portmarnock just seven days earlier, making nine single putts in a row to win one-up.

“I wanted to throw that putter into the Atlantic!” Byrne confessed after Green played the last seven holes in four-under. “She had nine single putts in a row, nearly 10, which is hard to beat, but I gave it my all.

“She made an 18-footer on 14 and a nice 40-footer on 15, and I was just laughing at that point and thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’”

Green went on to make a 10-footer for a half on the 16th and a 12-footer for birdie on the 17th to edge ahead, but Byrne, who turns professional later this summer, left feeling upbeat.

“You have the best men and women in the world, and not only has it been the most fun ever, but it has also been an unbelievable experience, knowing my ball-striking is up there with the best,” Byrne said.

Kennedy halved his match with world No 4 Ben James to end the week with three and a half points out of four, rolling in a 30-footer for an outrageous half in par at the 17th before the last was halved in birdie fours.

“I’m sure that’s not going to be our last battle,” Kennedy said of James, who is tipped to become a future star.

“I played well all week. Today, Ben and I had a really good battle and went head-to-head for the entire day. There wasn’t more than one in it all day, and I think a half was a fair result.”

Coach Barry Fennelly from Maynooth University knew the internationals faced a tough task when they failed to take the lead after Saturday’s session of foursomes and mixed foursomes – and so it proved.

While Josele Ballester, Calum Scott and Filip Jakubcik put early points on the board, the US had too much strength in depth.

“I would say with four or five games left on the course, we had a great chance if everything went our way, but unfortunately, we were four light at the end,” Fennelly said.

“The 18th wasn’t kind to us in the last hour. But there’s no doubt we’re looking at future stars here. Max Kennedy has shown what a competitor he is. He’s one to watch.

“He really rose to the occasion and to be fair, Sara was fantastic, and Ryan and Kate got a brilliant victory on day one. Unfortunately, just a couple of matches yesterday and today were very tight, but our Irish did us proud for sure.”

At the BMW International Open in Munich, Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson (28) claimed his third win and his first for two years when he closed with four-under 68 for a two-shot victory over Australia’s David Micheluzzi and Jordan Smith on 18-under.

“I honestly can’t believe it,” said an emotional Ferguson, who also secured a spot in The Open. “The last four holes I felt like I was in a dream; I just didn’t think that this was actually happening. It was crazy. I was playing so well.”

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