Ian Keenan said he was proud of a win that was â€œa long time comingâ€ after a final round 67 gave him a one stroke victory at 11 under par at the Castle Dargan PGA EuroPro Tour event in Sligo.
Keenan (Royal Liverpool) led the tournament after the opening round at six under par, and a second round 70 saw him tee off one stroke behind final round leader Andrew Thorpe.
Three birdies on the front nine saw Keenan seize the initiative as Thorpe dropped an early shot. An eagle at the tenth saw him strengthen his position but he admitted a wobble at the 16th had him worried â€“ before he composed himself to finish one stroke clear of Justin Evans.
â€œItâ€™s a long time coming to be honest, and at 16 I thought I might have blown it,â€ said Keenan, who pockets Â£10,000 for the win. â€œI had a stinking lie after over-shooting the green and I thought Iâ€™d hit a good shot too. But I got away with just the bogey and gathered myself well, and Iâ€™m delighted with the win.
â€œI deserved this though after the way I played from tee to green all week,â€ said the Hoylake pro. â€œI said to my roommate that this course was perfect for me and I knew I was playing well. The 65 in the opening round showed that, and the 70 yesterday was good too, but itâ€™s a three-round tournament and there were some great scores out there â€“ look at Paul Maddyâ€™s 64 (second round) â€“ so one low round was never going to be enough.
â€œPutting pressure on down the front nine was important but with such a bunched leader board, I couldnâ€™t allow myself to be too distracted as players could come from anywhere to pass you,â€ said the 34 year-old. â€œI just stuck to my guns and Iâ€™m very proud of that performance.â€
Evans (Wentworth Club) was level par after nine holes, with two bogeys swiftly followed by two birdies. It was an eagle at the tenth that kept Evans interested in the trophy, with birdies at 12 and 15 taking him to 11 under, but a bogey at 17 meant he had to settle for second place at ten under.
Daniel Belch took third spot after a fine final round of 65. Belch (Hillside GC) did the damage on the front nine, with three birdies from the fourth followed by another at the eighth. A fifth birdie came at the tenth before his first blip â€“ a bogey at 14. But Belch replied instantly with his sixth and final birdie of the day at the 15th to finish at nine under for the tournament.
The sixth hole was a popular one over the three rounds for all the players, and Irish duo Tim Rice and Paul Oâ€™Hanlon both picked up eagles there on the way to finishing tied for fourth place at seven under. Rice (Limerick) picked up five birdies in his four under par 67, while Oâ€™Hanlon (Curragh) also eagled the tenth before three bogeys down the back reduced him to a round of 69. Elliot Saltman (Aegon) joined the Irishmen in fourth spot, matching Oâ€™Hanlonâ€™s eagle at ten in a one under par round of 70. Younger brother Zack (Aegon) began the day at six under par like Elliot, but shot a 74 to finish back in a tie for 15th at three under.
Thorpe (Peterborough Milton) went into the final round with a one shot lead overnight ahead of playing partner Keenan and eventual runner-up Evans. Thorpe suffered an early blow after bogeying the second hole, but he remained in the hunt at the last thanks to birdies at the sixth, ninth and 15th to sit one stroke behind Keenan at 18. But Thorpe took an eight at the last after finding the water with his tee shot and dropped down to six under for the tournament.
Three players joined Thorpe at seven under â€“ James Busby (The Shropshire) and Brian McElhinney (Team Ireland) both carded 70s while James Freeman (Worksop GC) was level in his final round.
The next event on the PGA EuroPro Tour is the Dawson & Sanderson Classic at Longhirst Hall Golf Course in Northumberland from June 9.
1 Ian Keenan -11 202 65, 70, 67
2 Justin Evans -10 203 69, 66, 68
3 Daniel Belch -9 204 69, 69, 66
=4 Tim Rice -7 206 67, 72, 67
=4 Paul O’Hanlon -7 206 70, 67, 69
=4 Elliot Saltman -7 206 67, 69, 70
=7 James Busby -6 207 69, 68, 70
=7 Brian McElhinney -6 207 67, 70, 70
=7 James Freeman -6 207 66, 70, 71
=7 Andrew Thorpe -6 207 69, 65, 73