Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Sarah Helly, who established Marshall’s single-season stroke average record in women’s golf this past school year, won the title Tuesday in the Irish Women’s Close Championship, the amateur title in her home nation.


Helly, of Enniscrone, Ireland, rolled to the title with a stunning 6 and 5 victory over Olivia Mehaffey – ranked 59th in the world and the defending Scottish Ladies and Welsh Ladies Strokeplay champion-- at the famed Old Tom Morris Links at Rosapenna Golf Club.

The title came on Helly’s 23rd birthday, and she was wearing her Marshall golf cap and shirt for the title round.

“I knew I was the underdog, but I had nothing to lose and I was playing very well,” Helly told The Irish Times after her victory. So, I just stuck to my game plan and told myself to try my best and while the final was a little scrappy and nervous to start – it was our seventh round of golf since Saturday – and there were a few mental errors and tiredness crept in, we got there in the end.”

With a strong short game, Helly won Nos. 8 and 9 to go 3-up before winning the 10th hole with a 30-foot birdie putt. She made a 20-footer for a birdie on 11. Then, leading 5-up with six holes to play, Helly made an outstanding pitch to within three feet at the 322-yard No. 13 to set up the title.

In the semifinal earlier Tuesday, Helly downed 17-year-old defending champion Mary Doyle, 2 and 1. Helly’s two-round qualifying score of 146 (72-74) matched Mehaffey at the top before the 32-player match play bracket began. Helly is the No. 8-ranked women’s amateur in Ireland.

“I can’t get over the fact that I am Irish champion,” Helly told The Times. “I have always wanted an Irish Close but I didn’t think I would ever do it, and I knew this year I was playing well, and if I didn’t do it this year, I might not ever do it.”

Helly, who finished the 2014-15 Marshall season with a school-record 76.43 stroke average, recently was selected for the six-player Irish team in the 28th World University Games, scheduled July 3-14 in Gwangju, South Korea.

This season as a senior, she became the first Marshall golfer selected All-Conference USA (third team) in the Herd’s 10 years in the league. She had six top-20 finishes this season.

She also was on the five-player C-USA All-Academic Team. She owns a 3.44 grade point average in sports management, and plans to return to Marshall to graduate this December.

“Sarah is having an amazing summer,” Marshall Coach Tiffany Prats said after learning of Helly’s Irish Close title. “Today, to win her final match 6 and 5 is outstanding. It was a long week of golf, and her game just kept improving. And to win on her birthday makes it even more special.

“Winning this title will give her a great deal of confidence heading into the World Games.”