Naas’ Robert Brazill “hammered” home a 12 footer for birdie on the 18th green to end Alex Gleeson’s brave challenge and claim the West of Ireland Championship by one hole at a rain-lashed Rosses Point.
It was Naas Golf Club's third "West" triumph in five years following wins for Jack Hume in 2014 and Jonathan Yates two years ago.
And Brazill thanked his caddie Robbie Pierse from Grange — runner-up in last year’s East of Ireland — for reminding him that he had to be prepared to see Gleeson hole everything if he was to win his first amateur major.
“Robbie has played a lot of golf with Alex and before the final, he said, 'Expect him to make everything’,” the champion revealed after playing three-under par golf to win on the last in horrific conditions.
“I expected him to make his putt on 17 and I expected him to make that one on the last. Once he did roll it in, I had to give it a go! I hammered it in the back.”
The big-hitting 21-year old was one up playing the last after a titanic battle played in a freezing northeast wind and driving rain.
But while Gleeson heroically birdied the final hole from 15 feet to ask the question and give himself a chance of forcing a playoff, Brazill had the answer.
“It's unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” said Brazill, who beat 18-year old Royal Portrush talent Jack Madden 2 and 1 in the semi-finals, coming back from two down after 11 holes with four wins in the next five to reach the decider.
“I never thought I would get to here. But I have put a lot of work in this winter over the last few years working with my coach Gavin Lunny and playing with Jack (Hume) and Jonny (Yates), playing loads of golf with them.
“They are at a higher level than me so to compare my game with theirs has been great.”
Brazill's wins sends him straight to the top of the new Bridgestone Order of Merit — the new points list for the eight national and provincial “majors” which will award the leading two players a spot in the Irish team for the Home Internationals.
And he showed in the final that he has the game to play at that level, beating Gleeson, a former Junior member of the host club, who had to dig deep to beat Portmarnock’s James Fox (35) by one hole in the other semi-final.
One up after a birdie at the third in birdie, Brazill watched Gleeson eagle the fifth from 12 feet and then birdie the seventh from 35 feet to suddenly find himself one down.
But after getting back to all square with a par at the eighth, he won the 12th in birdie and the 14th in par — Gleeson missed putts from around four and eight feet each time — to take a two-hole lead that proved crucial.
"I played really well all day, made one mistake on the tee shot on 14 and played a brilliant recovery shot and just missed it,” said Gleeson who cut the gap with a winning par at the 16th but couldn't take advantage of Brazill's bogey at the 17th and could only halve in five. “Those two putts on 12 and 14 were must-makes.
“I played well down the stretch and then to hole a birdie putt on the last, well at least I asked the question and to be fair, he popped it straight in the middle. It's disappointing now, but I put in a good showing."
West of Ireland Amateur Open, County Sligo GC (sponsored by Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Sligo)
- Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt James Fox (Portmarnock) 1 hole;
- Robert Brazill (Naas) bt Jack Madden (Royal Portrush) 2/1.
- Brazill beat Gleeson 1 hole.