Top-20 for Galbraith as Koivisto rises to NI Open challenge

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John Ross Galbraith (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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John Ross Galbraith vowed to learn from his final day frustration as he was left to reflect on what might’ve been at the close of the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle.

The Whitehead professional could only manage a final round even par 72 but felt his play warranted much better after settling for a share of 19th at four-under par.

“Unbelievable, very up and down day,” said JR. “Feel like I played so much better than what I got out of that round. So unlucky couple of times. Lost ball off the first, didn’t think it was that far offline. Made double from nowhere. Made great birdie at the next, hit the flag with my wedge finished eight feet.

“First few holes were a real kick in the teeth. Pleased with how I hung in there and fought back after reaching the turn in three over. Kept telling myself I play the back nine well. Hang in there and try and make a few birdies. Managed to play the back nine in three under.

“Finished with eagle in 18. Great tee shot up 18 into the wind, had 267 to the pin and hit a career three wood – as good as I could hit it – into eight feet, rolled it in for eagle. To finish with eagle helps the frustrations from earlier in the round.

“Overall, very positive week. Made enough birdies and eagles to be up there, but obviously the dropped killed me. I’ll try and learn from the mistakes.”

Niall Kearney finished two shots further adrift at two-under par after signing off on an encouraging week with a one-under par 69 for a tie for 23rd.

“Make a dash for the border and home now,” Kearney smiled. “Sluggish on the front nine to turn on two over, but picked up with a few birdies on the back nine. Felt as though I played ok again, still tricky out there. Didn’t do a whole lot wrong on the front nine, just couldn’t make birdie.

“Overall, I’m happy enough with everything, wasn’t really sure where my game was coming into the week,” said Kearney after his round. Four decent scores. Striking got better each day. Good to get card in hand and get the juices going again. The game is not too far away, not 100 per cent. Couple of tournaments again could bring it on to where it needs to be.

“Maybe Portugal next week if I get in, definitely Portugal the following week. Irish Open don’t know where I stand for that, hopefully I get in.”

At the top, Tyler Koivisto completed a remarkable victory in his first Official World Golf Ranking recognised event by winning the Northern Ireland Open Supported by The R&A.

The American, teeing it up in his first European Challenge Tour event, posted a final round three under par 67 to reach 13 under par at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, two strokes clear of Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen in second place on 11 under par.

Koivisto spent three years as a schoolteacher after university before taking up golf full-time two years ago and is now faced with a promising future after a life-changing victory which secures him full Challenge Tour playing privileges.

“It’s very special,” he said. “Golfing wise, probably the best week of my life. For my wife, our wedding, obviously, was the best week of my life.

“They called me up last week and asked me if I could fly to Northern Ireland and I said yes, I’m going to take any opportunity I can get. I was mostly playing mini tour stuff in the States, some Monday qualifiers and I taught for three years.

“I think my mentality was good this week. I was really relaxed, not really caring and in terms of expectations I was just hitting golf shots and having fun. I had a blast this week on the course. I didn’t really worry too much about the results.”

The Minnesotan showed the calmness of an experienced winner coming down the stretch at Galgorm Castle and he highlighted the birdie at the 15th hole as a pivotal moment.

“I think the birdie I made on 15 was huge,” he said. “Just because I had seen a lot of putts burn the edge or my pace was a little weird. That went in the side door then and I thought to myself ‘yeah, I’m going to get this done now’. I hit three really good tee shots coming down the stretch and that was very special.

“That scene on the 18th green was special and it was nice to see my name on the top of the leaderboard. All the hard work you put in, it’s nice to see it pay off and get to the next level.”

This week’s event would not have been possible without The R&A, who provided additional through their Covid-19 Support Fund.

“I’m grateful just for the opportunity to come over here with everything going on, with the pandemic, and being able to set up this tournament bubble, I couldn’t believe all the work that went into that,” Koivisto said.

“Just the ease of coming over here and having people arrange stuff for me was great. The R&A stepping in, it wouldn’t happen otherwise, I’m very grateful for them.”

Johannessen posted the joint-low round of the day with a five under par 65 to secure solo second place, one stroke clear of Jens Fahrbring, who also posted 65, and England’s Andrew

Wilson who shared third place on ten under par. Sweden’s Björn Hellgren and Iceland’s Gudmundur Kristjansson made up the top five, sharing fifth place on nine under par.

With victory in Ballymena, Koivisto made it an American double with countryman John Catlin winning on the European Tour at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, and the 27-year-old moves immediately to sixth place on the Road to Mallorca Rankings.

Full scoring HERE

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