Hallamshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick finished fourth behind wire to wire winner Robin Dawson in the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down, but jumped into the top 50 in the World amateur rankings.
Dawson finished four strokes clear of the field on two under par after carding a final round of 77. The 22-year-old Tramore international began the day with a six-shot cushion and while it was plain sailing for much of the afternoon, he very nearly lost his grip on the tournament at the 15th where he ran up a triple bogey seven after sending his second shot into the gorse.
From what had seemed an unassailable position Dawson saw his lead halved from six to three. Alex Gleeson (The Castle, Dublin), playing alongside Dawson in the final group, was now in the picture but his hopes were dashed at 17 when he three putted his way to a double bogey.
Dawson has been in command of this tournament from the first day. A superb opening round of 65 put him three clear and his position at the top was rarely threatened. Fitzpatrick, who finished the tournament on three over, briefly got within one shot during Saturday's third round. Otherwise, Dawson has had it all his own way.
In the last round his playing partners Gleeson and Fitzpatrick, both made four to gain a shot on the leader, but young Fitz gave his back at the second after finding the greenside bunker. Dawson coughed up a shot at the third when he failed to get up and down.
Dawson's lead was cut to four when Fitzpatrick birdied the sixth, but the leader responded by holing for a two at the seventh. After parring the eighth, Dawson had a seven-shot cushion as Fitzpatrick ran up a double bogey.
It was only then that the drama began. Both players came to grief on the ninth. Dawson lost his tee shot left and had to reload. Fitzpatrick went right and never saw his ball again. While Dawson managed to limit the damage with a six, Fitzpatrick's challenge collapsed under the weight of a triple bogey.
Meanwhile Gleeson was inching his way into contention with birdies at eight and nine. On six under, Dawson led Gleeson by seven at the turn.
Gleeson gained another shot with a birdie at the 12th only for Dawson to hit back with a birdie on 13. Bunkered with his tee shot on 14, Dawson had to settle for bogey while Gleeson made par.
Standing on the 15th tee, the gap was six. By the time Dawson walked off the green, his lead had been reduced to three.
But after 17 the tournament was settled. In trouble off the tee, Dawson and Gleeson had to pitch their balls back into the fairway and try to make par the hard way. Gleeson caught the front edge with his third, but Dawson came up short. From there he pitched it to four feet and escaped with a bogey. Gleeson, who had been so good with the blade throughout, three-putted, handing his opponent a four-stroke lead going down the last.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile , moved up 10 places to 48th position in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. A top 50 position by the end of June will earn him a place in the US Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach in August and with it the chance to emulate elder brother Matt who won the title at Brookline in 2013.