Brazill ready to burn rubber on Bridgestone circuit
International golfer Rob Brazill tees off at the Bridgestone Orders of Merit launch, Mondello Park, Naas, Kildare, Ireland. 07/03/2019. Picture Fran Caffrey /

International golfer Rob Brazill tees off at the Bridgestone Orders of Merit launch, Mondello Park, Naas, Kildare, Ireland. 07/03/2019. Picture Fran Caffrey /

Happiness for some is a long walk with a putter.

But for West of Ireland champion Robert Brazill, few things match the thrill of ripping a drive a mile — especially if he's trying to beat a souped up track car down the straight at Modello Park.

The 22-year old Naas ace is one of the longest players in the Irish squad and he was more than a match for a Turbocharged BMW M2 when he tested his ball speed against the car as Bridgestone announced the renewal of its sponsorship of the GUI's men's and boy's Order of Merit races for 2019.

With fellow Irish squad member Conor Purcell, the recently crowned Australian Amateur champion, also letting rip, Brazill is living the dream as he mixes top-class international golf with part-time work in golf retail.

The GUI has yet to release the results of yesterday's driving test, but with a swing speed of 120mph compared to Purcell's 113, Brazill's missiles were flying off a 190mph, which was more than a match for the BMW M2's impressive firepower.

"Fun for me is pulling out the driver and hitting it as far as I can," Brazill revealed with a grin as he tucked into lunch in the paddock after a photoshoot. "What could be more fun than going out to rip a ball around a field with your friends in as few strokes as you can?"

Bazill is far more than a grip-it-and-rip-it golfer as he showed when he beat eventual Bridgestone Order of Merit winner Alex Gleeson in the final of the "West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point last year to claim his first amateur major.

He didn't quite do enough to finish in the top two in the season-long Bridgestone Order of Merit race and earn an automatic international call-up for last year's Home Internationals.

But after being called up to the Irish squad this year, recently making a successful two-week trip to South Africa, he's gunning for that full Irish cap this season and knows he can achieve his dream if he finishes in the top three in the newly revamped race this year.

The tyre manufacturer has extended its partnership with the Golfing Union of Ireland and will continue as title sponsors for both the men’s and boys’ international orders of merit in 2019.

The Bridgestone Order of Merit comprises ten events starting with the West of Ireland Championship (4-7 April) and includes blue riband events such as the Flogas Irish Amateur Open (16-19 May) at Co Sligo and the AIG Irish Close (3-7 August) at Ballybunion as well as the remaining provincial matchplay and strokeplay championships. 

The top three will then earn automatic selection on the Ireland team for the Home Internationals, which will be played at Lahinch from September 11-13.

As for the Bridgestone Boys International Order of Merit, captured last year by Kilkenny's Mark Power, the first counting events in the nine-event series take place this month. 

A six-player Ireland selection travel to Chantilly in France for a Quadrangular Tournament (15-17 March) as an eight-player selection play a two-day international against Wales at Rosslare (16-17 March). In total, there are nine events in the series.

Brazill is determined to play in as many Order of Merit events as he can, and he's looking forward to getting the ball rolling in his defence of the "West" next month, where a 132-strong field will play 72 holes of strokeplay golf as a warm-up for the Irish Amateur Open there in May.

"I'd love to take one of the top three spots on the Bridgestone this year to cement my place on the Irish team," he said. "I think I was fourth last year which was pretty good.

"Winning the West and getting that first win proved that I could do it and having that on the wall when things aren't going so well, is a nice reminder.

"I look back on the videos, and it brings a smile to my face so I will try to play in all the events this year because it's great to have a sponsor for the Order of Merit so I will be trying to give Bridgestone as much support as I can in return."

Getting the call to join the Irish squad this winter was a massive boost to Brazill, who works part-time in a golf retailer in Dublin to pay for his living expenses and car insurance.

"When I was at tournaments last year I could see how well the lads on the Irish squad were gelling and practising together and wondered what that was all about," he said. "It was only when I went on my first squad trip to South Africa there last month that I realised why they all bond so well.

"They all push each other on and help each other and while I was selected to go with Alex Gleeson to the Nassau Invitational last year for my first trip away, being with the full Irish squad meant a lot to me deep down.

"You can be standing on the range and hitting it badly, but then you stop and think, 'I've won the West, I've made the Irish squad. I'm doing something I love'. It's a nice feeling.”