A closing birdie was enough for Damian Mooney to clinch the Ireland Open Series at Carlow Golf Club after a thrilling final day.
The Lough Erne man came from two shots behind Cormac Smyth starting the day to win by one on three-under after a second round 68.
Mooney finished a shot ahead of Limerick’s Tim Rice, Sean O’Donoghue of Mount Wolseley and four-time winner this season Richard Kilpatrick of Banbridge while Colm Moriarty of Glasson and Michael McGeady rounded off the under-par scores in fifth.
“Yeah it’s great to win, been playing a lot better lately than my scores suggest but that’s OK and it’s nice to get a win. 18 is handy, yesterday it was a drive and 9-iron and today it was a 7-iron cut around a tree. Because 18 plays so much downhill it played very short.
“It still has danger with OB on the left and you can run out of room down the right but it does give you a break after the other holes on a tough golf course.
“I’m delighted, I’m 54 so it’s great to get back winning.”
Mooney got off to the ideal start with two birdies in his opening five holes before giving one back on the seventh.
A birdie on the par-3 13th brought him back into the mix again a little while before Smyth began to struggle. A three-putt bogey on 16 might have forced a playoff with Rice and Kilpatrick but Mooney rallied with a closing two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th to edge to the title.
Mooney has already been in the winners circle this term, sharing the top prize in the Roganstown pro-am in May and he was delighted to see his aggressive approach pay off today.
“My mindset today was to go out and be aggressive. I hit driver off the first when a lot of lads would hit iron or rescue, hit driver off the short par-4 2nd where yesterday I hit 3-iron. I would say I’m one of the better drivers of the ball so that’s not an issue.
“It’s about holing putts for me, I’m a good putter but not the best and I can get streaks so the secret over two days is holing out those three and four footers. Missed a few yesterday and just the one today. Greens were very good, just difficult to read.
“It’s a great golf course, no hole is the same, great variety in par-3s. Seven, 13 and 16 are great holes, I three-putted 16 both days.”
A superb 66 and round of the week helped Rice hold the clubhouse lead for much of the day on two-under after a back nine of 32 propelled him to the summit before he was joined by Kilpatrick who posted rounds of 70 and 68.
O’Donoghue posted back-to-back rounds of 69 to share the clubhouse lead after he finished with a flourish and birdied his last two holes.
Overnight leader Smyth of Old Conna was extremely solid for the first third of his round carding eleven straight pars to maintain his two shot advantage. However, just as the chasing pack began to circle, Smyth began to struggle.
His first move was a negative one and three successive dropped shots, saw him fall out of the lead before a fourth bogey in five holes sent him over-par and with it his chances ended.
He did finish on a high note with a birdie on 18 for a T-7th finish and a level-par total after a 73.
Three-time Irish PGA Champion Damien McGrane made an early move with a two-under 68 to climb into 7th on level-par alongside Smyth and Glen Robinson.
The Carlow Golf Club professional birdied three of his last four holes to round off what has been a very successful month with his third Irish PGA title in Carne surrounded by three top-12 finishes.
McGuirks Golf man Neil O’Briain teed off in the final group but a two-over 72 saw his chances come to a halt as did Simon Thornton who surprisingly shot a 74 to drift out to 14th on plus three.
David Higgins of Waterville secured 12th place after successive rounds of 71 while last week’s winner Shane Jenkinson had a disappointing day finishing on five-over after a 74.