Gavin Moynihan confessed that he never doubted himself during a grim rookie season and his confidence paid off to the tune of €84,505 as he treated the final round like a spin around The Island and closed with a sensational eight under par 64.
The 22-year old from Donabate missed seven of 15 cuts in his first season as a professional and had no status on the Challenge Tour until he won on the Europro Tour and then finished second in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 on the Challenge Tour in May.
Now he’s flying high and while he will stick to the Challenge Tour despite gaining a big foothold in the Race to Dubai, he sees only good things ahead.
“That round was big for me,” Moynihan said. “I had not really had like a low round since I turned pro.
“I had a few 67s and 66s, so to shoot 8-under around this course — and it wasn’t easy today — it’s huge.”
Now he’s heading back to the Challenge Tour with the confidence to win his card via the top 15 in the money list after finishing tied for 14th alongside the likes of world No 2 Hideki Matsuyama in a world-class field on 13-under par.
He might have missed out on a top 10 finish and a potential start in this week’s Scottish Open and one of three places in The Open at Royal Birkdale, but Moynihan was still thrilled with his career low round alongside the young Italian Matteo Manassero.
Shane Lowry even stopped to look across from the 16th tee to watch Moynihan brush in a 15 footer for par at the last, hailing the young Dubliner as a star of the future.
“You only have to look at that par putt on the last,” Lowry said. “That takes balls. And it is great to see an Irish kid doing that.”
With local Portrush caddie Andrew McLoughlin on his bag, the annoyance of carding a 73 on Saturday faded for Moynihan, who went out in heavy winds and turned in 33 with birdies at the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth and a lone bogey at the eighth, where he ran through the fairway and had to hack out.
Sensing a special round, he stormed home in five-under 31, mixing birdies at the 12th, 13th and 17th with an eagle three at the 14th where he hit his shot of the week — a high power draw from 205 yards to nine feet.
“I had a bad finish last night and put me in a bad mood,” Moynihan said. “I was just determined to shoot in the 60s, that was the goal today.
“It was tough when we teed off it was cold and hard wind off the left on the first. If you said someone would shoot 64, I wouldn’t have seen it.”
Moynihan credited his new swing coach Shane O’Grady with the transformation in his game after the sudden death of long-time mentor Hugh Jackson during the Connemara Pro-Am in September 2015.
"My putting has improved a bit, chipping has improved a bit, ironplay is probably the biggest improvement," he said. "Last year I was lost with my swing. Shane O'Grady has been a huge help and I can't emphasise that enough.
"He has gotten my swing back. Those chippy fades into the wind on the par threes, 12 and 15, to get to that right pin.... last year I'd have been nearly aiming to the right trying to hook it to those pins. He's helped me big time with my game."
But he also knew he was close as he could regularly hold his own with 2015 Walker Cup teammate Paul Dunne during practice rounds on their weeks off.
It’s all a far cry from last year, when he admitted he was putting too much pressure on himself and could even see the tension reflected in his grip.
Asked if he ever doubted himself, he said: “No, I didn’t. Last year, even though things weren't going great, I could see how Dunner was doing. I have been playing with Dunner since I was 16.
“I'd see how he was playing and I'd match him. I knew if he could do it, I could do it. It was just a matter of catching a break somewhere.”
As for his late invitation, he said it was all down to Dubai Duty Free boss Colm McLoughlin.
“I will go and have a pint with him, I think,” he said. “I owe him a big thank you.”