Brian Casey won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier at Moyvalley to pocket €6,000 and immediately set his sights on a big pay-day at Lahinch.
The Navan man (28) followed a superb 66 with a three-under 69 to win by three strokes from Naas' Conor O'Rourke (27) and The Island's Paul McBride (23) on nine-under-par in the race for four precious spots in this week's $7 million Rolex Series event.
There was a three-way playoff for the final spot on five-under and Derry's Michael McGeady (41) grabbed it when he birdied the second extra hole to deny Castle amateur Robert Moran (19) and Old Conna's Neil O'Briain, draining a slippery six-footer at the 11th.
"I am absolutely delighted," said Casey who planned to pull out of Final Qualifying for The Open at Notts tomorrow but can still win one of three spots at Royal Portrush if he’s one of the leading three non-exempt players in the top-10 at Lahinch.
"Just to win today means a lot. That prize money will keep me going for a while because you are living week to week on the Europro Tour and it's tough.
"This is a huge boost. I can't even contemplate playing for a $7 million purse when we are playing for €50,000 every week.
"I was supposed to play Final Qualifying for The Open on Tuesday, but it's 36 holes, and I wouldn't get a practice round for Lahinch as I don't get into Wednesday's Pro-Am. So I guess the Irish Open is my major now!"
O'Rourke, who lost to Amateur champion James Sugrue in the 2017 South of Ireland final in his last amateur event, was "delighted" to shoot 68 and make it on six-under despite a bogey six at the last.
“I was delighted with how i handled myself,” the 2016 St Andrews Links Trophy winner said. “I never played the Irish Open as an amateur so I am jut delighted. It is my first opportunity to test myself against some of the best in the world. It’s what you practice for, isn’t it?”
And there was relief too for former Walker Cup player McBride, who double-bogeyed the 16th and then bogeyed the 18th to shoot 72 and tie for second.
"I was more angry with myself than frustrated after being nine-under after 15 holes, but it's great to get through,” said McBride, who twice led the stroke play qualifiers for the South at Lahinch. "It's my first of Irish Open, and the first of many, I hope."
Moran shot and excellent 69 and O'Briain a 70 before former Challenge Tour winner McGeady made a 25 footer for birdie at the 18th to join them on five-under par.
Moran then almost holed a 50 footer at the first playoff hole to advance but was eventually denied by McGeady, who last played in the Irish Open in 2009 when Shane Lowry won.
At Lahinch, Paul McGinley has pulled off an exciting coup for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open with the European Tour giving permission to erect a jumbo screen on the iconic par-three fifth.
The Dell is a throwback to golf from another era with players forced to hit to a green completely hidden between two huge dunes — a hole almost untouched since it was laid out by Old Tom Morris more than 125 years ago
Fans will be able to watch the action from a grandstand erected in front of a home on the Liscannor Road.
And with a whitewashed stone on top of a dune the only indication of the line to the pin, both spectators and the players will be able to see where the ball lands on a big video screen.
South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout will head to Lahinch with a spring in his step after he earned his maiden European Tour win in the Estrella Damm Andalucía Masters at Valderrama and a place in The Open at Royal Portrush.
The South African's five-shot overnight lead was trimmed to just three after he followed two opening birdies with four bogeys in his next five holes.
But he birdied the ninth, 10th and 11th and eventually signed for a level par 71 to win by six shots on 10-under par from Spanish quartet Adri Arnaus, Alvaro Quiros, Jon Rahm and Eduardo de la Riva and Frenchman Mike Lorenzo Vera.
He also secured a Major Championship debut alongside Lorenzo-Vera and Arnaus, who pipped de la Riva and Quiros for the other two Open exemptions thanks to their superior world ranking.
"It's amazing," Bezuidenhout said. "It has always been a dream of mine to play in The Open, and it's going to be a great week. It's my favourite major of the year and just to play in it is really special.
"Ernie (Els) has done a lot for me in my career. I have been part of his foundation for seven years. He has won The Open twice, so it's special for us South African boys."
It was a remarkable win for Bezuidenhout (25), who mistakenly drank rat poison at the age of two and developed a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety.
The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship.
His two-year ban was reduced to nine months after officials ruled he had not been seeking a competitive advantage, but he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy.
"I'm proud of myself hanging in there today," he said. "I had a tough stretch in the middle of my round from five to seven there. I made a great save on eight, which just kept the momentum on my side, and I bounced back with three birdies in a row.
"I was nervous. It's a tough golf course, and anything can happen, especially those last three holes playing into the wind. I'm really pleased with the way I played and to finish it off is unbelievable.”
On the Challenge Tour, England's Matthew Jordan claimed his maiden professional win when he beat Italy's Lorenzo Scalise in a play-off for the Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil at Terre dei Consoli Golf Club.
He shot a six-under 66 to Scalise's 65 to tie in 17-under par before winning with a par-three at the 16th in sudden-death to win € 48,000 and move from 24th to second in the rankings.
Tramore's Robin Dawson shot a five-over 77 to fall 29 spots to tied 56th on level par, earning €1,035 to move up to 73rd in the race for 15 European Tour cards.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifier, Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort (Par 72)
135 B Casey (Headfort) 66 69;
138 C O'Rourke (Naas) 70 68, P McBride (The Island) 66 72;
139 M McGeady (Evolve Golf Coaching) 68 71 (at 2nd playoff hole).
139 R Moran (a) (Castle) 70 69, N O'Briain (Old Conna) 69 70;
140 J Caldwell (Clandeboye) 70 70, J Howard (Fota Island) 69 71, D McElroy (Ballymena) 68 72;
141 E Brady (Clontarf ) 69 72;
142 M Hoey (Galgorm Castle) 71 71, T Rice (Limerick) 72 70, JR Galbraith (Whitehead) 70 72, S Thornton (Tulfarris) 70 72, L Murray (Mar Menor Golf) 73 69, R Brazill (a) (Naas) 69 73.