Hugh Foley backed up last year’s Irish Close title with a hard-earned win at the West of Ireland Championship at a rain-soaked Rosses Point as he held off home favourite TJ Ford and halfway leader Paul Coughlan of Castleknock.
The Royal Dublin golfer defied the torrential conditions as he romped to an impressive five-shot triumph in Sligo.
Having taken the 54-hole lead, Foley handled the tough conditions best as he closed with a hard fought two-over 73 to finish five shots ahead of runner up Liam Nolan of Galway who closed with a superb bogey-free 66.
Foley, who has moved into 4th place in the Bridgestone Order of Merit hasn’t let the magnitude of his achievement sink in as he is in a hectic run of golf.
“Bit of a whirlwind now and I haven’t really reflected on it properly yet,” he said.
For a 24-year-old, the memory of the infamous collapse of Frenchman Jean Van DeVelde will be strictly refined to YouTube.
Thinking about flashbacks to the 1999 Open at Carnoustie isn’t the normal thought process of someone in contention at an amateur event but Foley couldn’t escape those thoughts as he battled the elements down the stretch.
“I got a big cheer, it was stressful enough dealing with the weather and trying not to make a total mistake and do a Jean Van DeVelde bottlejob and then tapped it in and got a big cheer then the lads came onto the green and stuff, just a bit of relief really and then a good bit of emotion.
“I saw a few videos and there was a bit of emotion on my part letting a lot of stuff out.
“I heard the weather in Dublin was unbelievable and people were saying to me that I was going backwards and I was like yeah well it was lashing rain!
Foley, who won the Close at Rosapenna last year has had a challenging year following the loss of his father, the cardiologist Prof. David Foley in January and he admitted to feeling his presence on his bag on Sunday as he got some fortuitous bounces and was in red hot form on the greens.
After his win on Sunday, the Irish international dedicated the win to his late father.
“I suppose I had a really good putting weekend, my putting has always been a good part of my game but not my best and it was definitely my best putting week.
“It was strange, I felt over every putt that I was going to hole it and I definitely had a few bounces that were nice so yeah it’s hard to look into those sort of things but when you have nothing else you will search for anything so I was telling people that he was there caddying for me, on the bag all weekend.”
Having caught up with the Dubliner before he attempted to defend his Irish Close title at Tullamore last month, Foley had just returned from Spain and spoke about a frustrating season where he felt he only had his B game for the majority.
While he acknowledged that he had not been playing badly at the time, he was waiting for that one week where all facets of his game came to fruition and it was last week in Co. Sligo Golf Club.
Hugh Foley with the West of Ireland trophy by Golffile
“That’s right and that’s exactly what I was looking for. I had maybe not my best game but I was getting decent results and scoring ok, my bad scores were getting better.
“Played really well in parts in the close but didn’t really put it together and then the form came then, putting well which is the big equaliser and the first three and a half rounds I hit it brilliantly so definitely the form of last year was there last week.”
Playing four rounds of golf in two days is a trying physical and mental challenge but add the element of being in contention and battling heavy rain then the challenge increases in size and difficulty.
Foley trailed Coughlan by the minimum at the halfway point and overturned the deficit by early Sunday afternoon. He had no time to dwell on his lead and instead had to keep himself fresh with the quick turnaround that afternoon.
“I played 36, 36 before but hadn’t been in a leading position or a contending position and it’s almost double the exhaustion.
“It was a strange feeling playing the third round I was flying and usually you’re done and you can sleep on the lead.
“I had the lead in the close and that was much easier than playing 36 and being in contention all day for 10-12 hours. I just kept discipline, stopped myself thinking ahead or what holes will I birdie and who’s doing what what’s TJ or Paul Coughlan doing. I kept dragging myself back to the moment,” he added.
Foley wasn’t the only one pulling up trees last week, with Leona Maguire hitting the headlines for becoming the Solheim Cup’s most successful rookie, earning 4.5 points out of five as she drove Europe to back-to-back victories over America.
Amidst all the drama, he missed pretty much every bit of action during the three-day event.
“I missed almost all of it I saw her sink a putt in the foursomes to win her first point so that’s the only bit I saw between playing and sleeping I missed the rest.
“It looked like an unbelievable week for her.
“Savage to have her as the first Irish Solheim Cup player ever.”
It has been a hectic schedule for Foley who was in Germany this week for the Big Green Egg German Challenge on Europe’s second tier tour, the Challenge Tour.
Foley wasn’t too obsessed with how he fared after his win last week but was enjoying the experience of what Tour life can bring.
Hugh Foley celebrates on the 18th green by Golffile
“I got an invite three or four weeks ago and I was buzzing for it and I have ended up playing an outrageous amount of golf in the last few weeks,
“I’m kind of just here and don’t really care what happens, I’ve been taking it fairly easy if I miss the cut I miss the cut if I do well I do well.
“It’s good craic though it’ll be a good experience, I played with John Murphy and James Sugrue in the practice round so that was nice so it’s always more comfortable when you’re playing and seeing lads you know.
“It’s nice to get a taste of what it’s like to be on Tour.”
Foley unfortunately missed the cut despite a valiant effort on day one where he battled back from being four-over after seven holes before eventually signing for a two-over 73.
When Foley returns from his Challenge Tour experience in Germany he will have a place on the Irish international side for the Home Internationals to look forward to next week.