Neil O’Briain (Old Conna) got his season off to a flying start at St Anne’s GC on Thursday edging out Adam Dunmore (Bundoran) on the second play-off hole to win the BMW Eastern Open.
“The wind got up this afternoon and it was tricky but I was delighted that the wind was coming from the right on the 18th because I’d winged a few drives right today and I knew that the wind would hold it up there,” said Neil.
“Adam was a bit unlucky there on the second play-off hole. He didn’t hit a bad drive but it ended up in a tough lie and he struggled from there finding the bunker with his second. Luckily enough for me, it meant that par was good enough for the win, thank god.”
The BMW Eastern Open has a remarkable track record for delivering close finishes. Three stagings have been marked by three play-offs with O’Briain joining previous champions Damian Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf) and Damien McGrane (Carlow GC).
Persistent rain made the going tough for the players early in the morning but it didn’t stop O’Briain, Dunmore and McGrane posting excellent rounds of six under par 65. Adam had three two’s in his round, including an albatross at the par five 11th when he holed his six-iron approach to the green.
The leading trio finished two shots ahead of a chasing pack that included Brian McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching), Richard Kilpatrick (Banbridge GC), Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel & GC), Jimmy Bolger (Kilkenny GC) and Nicholas Grant (Knock GC).
McGrane was unable to contest the play-off so Dunmore and O’Briain returned to the 18th tee with Adam giving himself a great chance to win hitting his approach at the par four into 12 feet while Neil’s long range putt from 20 yards ran 10 feet past.
Dunmore’s birdie effort grazed the lip and O’Briain grabbed the chance to stay in the tie by rolling in his 10 footer to send the pair back once again to the 18th tee.
With a strong wind whipping across the fairway both players finished on the left hand side but Dunmore found a horrible lie and somehow managed to muscle his second into a fairway bunker. His third failed to find the putting surface and when his chip failed to drop it left O’Briain with two putts from 15 feet to win.
“The only pro-only event that I am missing now is the Irish PGA Championship title so I will be targeting that this year,” added Neil who will play mix region events with some Challenge Tour and Europro Tour starts this season.
“The DDF Irish Open qualifier at Moyvalley will be another important event and hopefully I will be able to give Open Championship qualifying a good go this year as well.”