Richard Finch literally threw himself in at the deep end to secure The 2008 Irish Open, providing one of the championship’s most memorable moments by falling into the River Maigue after hitting his third shot on the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort’s 18th hole.
Three shots clear of his closest challenger Felipe Aguilar coming down the par five finishing hole, Finch drove his ball into the right hand rough before over-hitting his lay-up second onto the edge of the riverbank.
The Englishman found his ball lying well enough to go for the green with his third shot, a feat he achieved brilliantly only to find his momentum knocked him off balance and dumped him into the water, much to the amusement of the packed gallery.
After being fished out of the water by his caddie, Finch crossed the river and took three putts to secure the title and the €416,660 first prize that elevated him to fifth place on The European Tour Order of Merit.
Finch’s ten under par 278 aggregate saw him finish two clear of Aguilar and three ahead of leading Irishman Gary Murphy, as well as Robert Karlsson, Maarten Lafeber and Lee Westwood, but the tournament will surely be defined by one moment: Finch’s victory plunge.
“When I was walking down there I had a little feeling that I might have just sort of hit it too hard with my second shot,” said Finch, “but when I got there, I thought, well, it looks fine, I've got room to swing and I can get my stance, and I never really gave falling in a thought, to be honest
“As I hit the shot, I knew straight away I had sort of made decent contact. I don't know whether I slipped or went round with momentum. And then the next thing I sort of just was gradually falling down the bank, which it was a case of, well, I kept trying to follow the ball, but obviously then I looked up and saw it on the green, and I was sort in a bit of shock of, thinking my God, what have I done!”
Finch’s victory has all but guaranteed the Englishman a Major Championship venue at this year’s Open Championship, as well as propelling him to tenth place on the European Ryder Cup Points List.
For a man who waited until the last putt if the 2007 season to retain his European Tour playing privileges, that is quite an achievement.
“This is massive,” he smiled. “Things may change in my outlook in the coming months and what have you. But obviously I had not looked into that in any way, shape or form. I didn't want to sort of tempt fate and start thinking, well, if this happens, then that happens or anything else.
“I'll probably have to sit down when things have calmed down a bit and have a look at different things. But you know, I'm delighted to have won, really. It's nice – winning in New Zealand four or five months ago was absolutely superb, and to follow that up with another win in Europe with such a strong field is brilliant, and I'm delighted.”
Click here to listen to the winner Richard Finch talking to our on course reporter Nick Dye after his win.