Waterford’s Seamus Power in action at the Byron Nelson Championship.
What a weekend of sport that was.
On Saturday I was flicking around on the TV when I happened upon the British Masters golf tournament on Sky Sports. A European Tour event being held at the famous Belfry Golf club in England.
It quickly became apparent that there was a massive story unfolding before our very eyes, or at least possibly unfolding. When I turned it on the tournament was being led on the final day (which unusually was a Saturday and not Sunday) by a 48 year-old Englishman called Richard Bland who was attempting to win his first European Tour event at his 478th attempt. He was also bidding to become the oldest first time winner on the European Tour.
When he holed a long birdie putt on 18 to get to -13 the emotion poured out of him. He thought he had done it. But he hadn’t, not yet anyway. A young Italian named Guido Migliozzi hadn’t read the script and did his best to dash the fairytale. He also finished on -13 and so it was a playoff. But thankfully, no disrespect to Migliozzi, our man Bland got the job done and this time his celebrations were for real. Not surprisingly he broke down as did the entire Sky Sports team. But it gets better.
Tim Barter of Sky Sports has the job of interviewing the winner after he finishes and so he stepped forward. But the thing is that Barter is also Bland’s coach and has been for 20 years. The interview was hard going for both of them but it was beautiful and so was Bland’s interaction with his parents who were lined up on a screen via Zoom at the edge of the 18th green. ‘We’re going to your sisters to celebrate,’ said the dad, ‘and we may not be driving home.’ Brilliant. ‘Any chance of a roast lamb dinner on Tuesday night mum,’ the new champion enquired, ‘you can have whatever you want,’ came the reply. It really was great stuff. As was the outpouring of congratulations on social media for the 48 year old, who turned pro in 1996 and just two years ago, at 46, went back to the Challenge Tour.
My favourite was from legendary American golfer Fred Couples (@fredcouplesgolf) who tweeted, ‘Today I saw something that inspired me and reminded me of why golf is the greatest game. Richard Bland who hadn’t won in his previous 478 professional starts wins the #britishmasters in a playoff on the @europeantour. Congrats @blandy73 on the first and wishing you many more!” Class. It just shows that golf isn’t all about the superstars at the top of the world rankings, it’s the likes of Richard Bland and those players who lose their cards and keep coming back for more, all in the search of one glorious day in the sun….his day came on Saturday and maybe he’s not finished yet.
On Sunday, after listening to the Waterford game on WLR, I got stuck in to the Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour. After rounds of 65, 68 and 67, Waterford’s Seamus Power went into the final round in a tie for seventh, four shots off leader Sam Burns.
With the threat of storms, the start was brought forward, and Seamus got off to an absolute flyer. He was five under through eight holes which took him to -21, in solo second place and just two off the lead.
Regular viewers of the PGA Tour on Sky Sports will testify that sightings of Seamus are a very rare thing but on Sunday, at long last, he was centre stage. They were pulling out all his facts like him being from the home of Waterford Crystal, how he was a top racquetball player in his youth, how he can drive the ball over 300 yards with his right and left hands and so on….it was glorious and we dared to dream that this could be the day. I can only imagine how the Power family, people of Touraneena and members of West Waterford GC were feeling.
Unfortunately he made a double bogey six on 13 and followed it with a bogey on 14. They were his only dropped shots of the day but with the field so tightly packed that was enough to drop him down to tied ninth in the end as KH Lee of South Korea won the day.
It was still a massive day for Seamus. It ended up not being his highest PGA Tour finish (that’s fifth) but this was the first time that he was really in contention to win and he definitely never got such TV exposure. Both of these can only be good things.
He banked €175,102 and moved up 26 places to 169th in the FedEx Cup standings (Phil Mickelson is 168th and Henrik Stenson is 167th).
“It’s a step in the right direction and I now have the next couple of weeks off, so I have of lot of good things to build on and hope to be back in action in three weeks time and hopefully improve on this result,” he said after.
I really believe (and hope) that this could be a career defining week for the Touraneena man. A couple of weeks ago he missed the Zurich Classic, and event he has a great record in, due to a positive Covid test, and that was a big blow but after shooting 62 in Monday qualifying to get into the Wells Fargo and now this, I think this is his time to push on and seal his full card for 2022 and get into contention again soon and the more often you get in contention the better the chance of getting that first win. It’s not easy, just ask Richard Bland, but at the weekend Seamus looked comfortable shooting it out with the world’s best golfers.
He can do this, no doubt and if and when he does, I’ll be absolutely thrilled because he’s one of the nicest and most down to earth sports people I’ve ever met.
FREEDOM FOR HENRY
I was absolutely delighted to hear the news this week that the all conquering Henry de Bromhead is to receive the Freedom of Waterford City and County in the not too distant future. The proposal was brought to the council by Mayor Damien Geoghegan and not surprisingly it was adopted by each and every councillor.
It is a massive honour, the highest accolade that this county can bestow, for the Knockeen trainer but one that is richly deserved after such an astounding season which saw him create history at the Cheltenham Festival by becoming the first ever trainer to train the winners of the Festival’s biggest three races in the one week – the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup. He also memorably had the first two home in the Gold Cup and then he went on to do the same at the Aintree Grand National, when Rachael Blackmore won the world’s most famous steeplechase on Minella Times, with stablemate Balko Des Flos in second.
He also trained 98 winners in Ireland in the 2020/21 season, including big winners at all the top Festivals, including the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, the Dublin Racing Festival, Fairyhouse and Punchestown.
As we’ve said on these pages so often before, Henry is a brilliant ambassador not only for his sport but also for the county of Waterford and this accolade is fitting for that as well as his wonderful attributes as a trainer.
Looking at the list of people who have already received this tremendous honour over the years, dating back to the 1860s, the one thing that struck me is the distinct lack of sports people. It’s mostly politicians to be fair but I would have thought that in a county that is so sports mad as Waterford is, that far more sporting achievements would have been recognised.
As far as I can see, and I apologise if I’ve omitted anyone, Henry becomes just the third sports person to bestowed with the Freedom of Waterford. John Treacy in 1979 and Sean Kelly in 1987 being the others. Amazingly there are no hurlers or soccer players on the list. Anyway, that debate is for another day. For now well done to Mayor Geoghegan and all the members of the City and County Council for making this well received decision and of course a massive well done to Henry de Bromhead and all the team at Knockeen (including the wonderful horses of course) for making this happen.
While I was watching the golf, I got a text about some bizarre happenings in the Liverpool v West Brom game so I flicked over to Liverpool goalkeeper, Alisson Becker scoring his side’s winner in the 96th minute, to become the first Liverpool goalkeeper ever to score a goal. The goal was good but his post match interview was incredible. It has been a terrible few months for the netminder after his father died in a drowning accident back in his native Brazil back in February and Alisson was unable to go home to the funeral or be with his family. All that emotion came out in a brilliant interview and if you haven’t seen it then definitely check it out.
Richard Bland and his coach Tim Barter celebrate after his British Masters win at the Belfry on Saturday.
HURLING IN DANGER
I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to this in more detail in the coming weeks but I’d just like to say that I share Limerick manager John Kiely’s (and plenty of others) fears for the beautiful game of hurling after what we’ve witnessed in the opening two rounds of the NHL. ‘There’s nobody here today because of Covid,’ said Kiely after their defeat to Galway, ‘but there’ll be nobody here next year either if we keep going like this, because they won’t pay €20 to come in and watch that.’
There were 49 frees and three red cards in the Waterford v Westmeath game. 36 in the Limerick v Galway game and over 30 in the Tipp v Cork game and in all the games the yellow and red cards that were being handed out were ridiculous. It’s obviously a directive from on high but it has to stop. The amount of stoppages in these games and the amount frees is ruining the great game of hurling. Do they want it to be a non-contact battle of the freetakers? If they don’t then they better do something to stop it and fast…..