Move to Kildare no drawback for Aidan
September 27 is becoming a significant date in the sporting life of Enniscorthy's Aidan Whelan as on that date last year he was captaining the local St. Patrick's pitch and putt team to All-Ireland glory in Tullamore in the combined Intermediate/Junior team event, and on the same date this year he was winning an individual All-Ireland title when he was crowned national Over-55 Junior Strokeplay champion at the Old County course in Crumlin, Dublin.
However, the essential difference this time is that Aidan is no longer a member of the local club as he resigned from it in July of this year and now pursues his hobby in Newbridge, Co. Kildare where he transferred to the local Ryston club, formerly known as Irish Ropes, shortly afterwards.
Although now faced with a round trip of 120 miles to practice or compete, he has no regrets about making the change after eight years and he has been welcomed with open arms by his new Kildare clubmates. He is the first man from the Ryston club to win this prestigious event although two ladies have previously won their equivalent competition which is staged in conjunction with the gents' event.
Having qualified from Kildare to compete in the finals, Aidan travelled with some hopes of doing well as he had only been beaten in a play-off the previous week for his club's Nett Cup.
The Old County course is built around the perimeter of Lorcan O'Toole G.A.A. park which some followers of G.A.A. might recognise, and it's generally regarded as a tough course with tight confines and no room for error.
After the first 18 holes Aidan was one over par and just two shots off the pace and right in contention, and despite the fine weather conditions scoring remained difficult. As most of the other 33 contestants faltered, the Enniscorthy resident kept his head and when he came in with a two under par second round of 52 to finish one under overall it put him in the clubhouse lead.
At this stage the first round leader was also finding the going tough, and when he had a double bogey five on the index one hole, the 66-metre 16th, his challenge faded and that left the Ryston clubman the national champion by two clear shots. He also had the distinction of being the only player to finish under par.
The third-placed finisher was a further three shots back on four over which shows how tricky the course was. Aidan paid tribute to his friend, Derek Ryan, who travelled with him on the day, for his continued support and he also thanked Kieron Morrissey who incidentally has also joined Ryston after more than 20 years at the local club and whose advice and guidance has been invaluable to him since he first took up the game.
He has received lots of congratulations from across the pitch and putt world through various media and as a result of this win his handicap has been cut from nine to seven. He will now compete in the Intermediate grade which is at a much higher level.
The championships were also attended by Irish T.V. and a feature on the event will be aired on their 'County Matters' programme on October 8 and October 10 on Channel 191. Overall the event was a tremendous success and bodes well for the Old County club which will also host the National Strokeplay finals next year.