Neil O'Briain fired a final round five under par 66 to steal the Irish PGA Assistants' Championship title from under the nose of Paddy Small at the Nuremore Hotel and Country Club.
The 29-year-old was tied for fourth overnight and actually trailed long-time leader Small by six shots heading into the final 18 holes but he managed to produce his best round of the week when it really mattered. It was the Old Conna GC man's third win on the bounce and justified his tag as pre-tournament favourite.
“When Paddy got to eight under after three rounds I thought he might be too far ahead and I was shocked to find I was still in the reckoning when I came in to sign my card,” said the 29-year-old.
“I had a four-footer on 16 to reach eight under but missed that and I thought that I had blown my chance. It's one of these things, with no live scoring on course you just keep fighting to the end and wait to see what happens when you come in.”
Small had reached eight under for the tournament with a third round 68 but faltered in round four, signing for a two-over 73 that opened the door to the rest of the competitors. He ended the tournament tied for second alongside the experienced Tim Rice who carded rounds of 72/69 yesterday.
“I have had a good run of it lately. Reached 11 under at Dunfanaghy, four under in the pre-tournament pro-am here and then seven under in the event so I really don't want to stop playing at the minute,” added O'Briain.
“But I have to get back to the shop and I have some lessons to give as well. It will be nice to get back and show the trophy to a few people around the club.”
And he added; “I put some time in at the gym pre-season and I have put on some distance. I have done a lot of work with coach Chris Jelly and Donal Scott on the putting and it seems like everything is coming together nicely.
“I'm getting into a good rhythm on the course and I'm picking the right shots at the right time. Over four rounds a couple of mistakes here or there can destroy your chances but I've been pretty strong with my course management and coupled with some hard work on the other elements it's beginning to pay off.”
Nuremore Irish PGA Assistants' Championship, Nuremore Hotel & Country Club
- 1 N O'Briain (Old Conna GC) 70 71 70 66 (277)
- T2 P Small 64 73 68 73 (278)
- T2 T Rice (Limerick GC) 73 64 72 69 (278)
- 4 R Kilpatrick (Banbridge GC) 72 69 69 70 (280)
- T5 J Dillon (Headfort GC) 75 69 68 71 (283)
- T5 C Molloy (Blackwood Golf Centre) 72 68 74 69 (283)
- T7 D Barry (Douglas GC) 71 79 68 72 (290)
- T7 D Leathem (Nevada Bobs Belfast) 78 70 73 69 (290)
- T7 H Coyne (Carton House) 73 73 75 69 (290)
- 10 C Starrett (GUI National Academy) 71 75 74 74 (294)