Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren held his nerve to the very end to round off a memorable week at Galgorm Castle where he opened with a course record 62 before making a birdie on the 72nd hole to become the new Northern Ireland Open Champion.
The 22-year-old closed with a final round of one-over 72, his worst score of the week, but it was still good enough for a 13-under-par 271 total to finish one ahead of Adrien Bernadet from France, who closed with a 66. Bernadet’s compatriot Jerome Lando Casanova carded the low round of the day 65 to race into a tie for third on 11-under alongside Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer (66).
“I couldn’t he happier than I am right now. I was nervous all day and am delighted to have won,” enthused Lagergren after securing his first European Challenge Tour win and picking up the €27,200 winner’s cheque.
Lagergren’s form over the first three days was so impressive that he began the final round with a six shot lead over his nearest challengers. In many ways it was his tournament to lose and that brought its own pressures.
His considerable advantage was halved to three after he dropped two strokes in his opening three holes while Bernadet made an early birdie at the second. With nine holes to go Lagergren was joined at the top by the Frenchman.
By the time he stood on the 18th tee the Stockholm resident was level alongside Bernadet on 12-under and needing a birdie to avoid a play-off. His approach to the par-five finished to the right of the green in a poor lie. However, with a deft touch he pitched up to eight feet and kept his composure to hole out for a winning birdie.
“Under the circumstances the pitch at the 18th was my best shot of the week. I couldn’t have played it any better and am delighted to have got the job done,” added the winner, who was presented with the trophy by Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
“This was a deserved win for Joakim in what turned out to be a thrilling finish,” said Foster. “The combination of quality golf from players on the Challenge Tour and a family friendly golf village and food festival has proven to be a real winner when it comes to drawing a crowd.”
Once again the NI Open broke all European Challenge Tour records as official numbers for the final day of 13,180 gave an impressive 34,481 total for the week.