Chris Selfridge capped off a tremendous weekend by winning the Golfsure-sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship following a dramatic last round at Royal Portrush Sunday.The 2011-12 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year carded a final-round 75 to win by two strokes ahead of Reeve Whitson and Gary Hurley.
Selfridge finished the event at five-under par 283 (66-72-70-75). He began his final round with a four-shot advantage, and it grew into a six-shot lead after just six holes.
But a double bogey on the seventh dropped him back to seven-under par. He then dropped another shot on the eighth to see his lead reduced to three over Whitson.
Birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 steadied the ship for Selfridge, who admitted to being very nervous and not getting much sleep Saturday night.
“I’m delighted obviously,” he told reporters afterward. “I played great today, but on the last six holes I got very nervous. The longest I slept last night was an hour; I was so nervous out there, but I got through it thankfully.”
Experience was perhaps key for Selfridge, who has never surrendered the lead in the tournament.
“I’ve never ever lost with a lead in a tournament, so I always had that, but I had a six-shot lead at one stage and threw it away. I got through it in the end, just got over the line.”
Despite concluding his freshman campaign this year in Toledo with three-straight top 10 finishes, Selfridge wasn’t convinced that people believed he had a chance.
“No one expected me to win today, even with a three-shot lead. I knew how good I was playing; I have never played this well. OK, I shot 75, but the putts didn’t drop and I got a couple of terrible breaks, especially on seven where I made double from a perfect tee shot.”
“I knew I had a huge lead, but when I double bogeyed seven and bogeyed eight, my original game plan was to play nine and 10 as the par fives and try and make birdie that way, but I sort of knew that I had to get back on board so I actually hit two drives 400 yards, flicked two lob wedges in, and could have made two eagles but made two birdies. When I did that I knew I was in a good place.”
So what does the future hold for Selfridge? Past winners of the Irish Close include Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
“I just keep trying to get better; a lot of people treat golf as a job,” Selfridge said. I’m going to get a degree; I’m going to get a master’s degree. I’m definitely going to try professional golf probably. I’m not depending on it. Whatever I end up doing, I end up doing. I want to enjoy golf; I love coming to these things.”
Reeve Whitson got within one shot of Selfridge’s lead at the 16th, but a bogey on 18 left the talented Mourne member two back, alongside West Waterford’s Gary Hurley, who played his final round in two-under par, and like Whitson moments before him, carded a bogey on the last.
The only other player to finish on par or better was Ardee’s Eugene Smith, who had tasted victory at the Munster Youths last month.