Neil O’Briain and Michael McGeady couldn’t be separated after 36 holes at the Connemara Pro-Am after the pair shared the spoils on nine-under-par.
After an opening round of 67, O’Briain shot a second round of 68 to peg back overnight leader McGeady who backed up an opening 65 with a two-under 70.
It’s McGeady’s third win of the season and second this month while O’Briain saw a consistent season finally rewarded with a victory as both players claimed the prize in Galway.
O’Briain arrived late on Saturday and was desperate to get some practice in so some late night innovation did the trick!
“I got down a little bit late and was desperate to hit balls because I had been working and teaching a lot so yeah any excuse I could get to hit a few balls,” explained O’Briain. “It was of no benefit really but I just wanted to get out of the car in the dark and hit balls. So I just thought of putting the headlights on and hit a few shots!
“I put two really nice rounds together. Conditions were as good as you’ll ever expect in Connemara so it was a little easier than in previous years. I played tidy golf, I kept giving myself chances. I’ve been working on trying to start the ball a little bit more on line with my driver and then from there everything else has been OK.
“Today and yesterday was really solid. The game has been thereabouts all year shooting a couple under or level but not really putting two rounds together, so I am very happy.”
Connemara boasts a thrilling finishing stretch with three par fives in the last five holes meaning the round should play out to a crescendo of birdies. That closing stretch proved pivotal for O’Briain of McGuirks Golf, Finglas as he played those ten holes in seven-under-par – although his second round he started on the back nine.
McGeady in contrast, played them in three-under over the two days while failing to birdie the par-5 18th.
Derry native McGeady had raced into the overnight lead thanks to a seven-under 65 that included three birdies in a row from the tenth before adding further gains on the 14th and 17th to come home in 32.
O’Briain had posted nine-under early in the day and after turning in one-over, McGeady fought back with three birdies in five holes to draw level with the Dubliner but he was unable to find a closing birdie to clinch the outright win.
That closing period made the difference for O’Briain who birdied four of his last five holes, including three in a row in the opening round before he responded to a second round bogey on 13 with birdies on 14, 15 and 18 to head into the front nine.
He had trailed McGeady by two heading into Monday but an eagle three on the par-5 7th saw him climb to the summit and give himself a chance.
“I’m not overly long but I’m not short either. If you get the ball in play you can give yourself chances so I had a good few birdies in that stretch and then the eagle on the seventh. It’s a case of if you can take advantage of those holes you can really do damage.
“It doesn’t take much to look silly on that golf course but if you can get into position you can give yourself chances so definitely a huge key is tidying up on the par fives. There are a good few holes like 8, 12, 13 and some shorter ones that play into the wind if you have 150 yards in you have to flight the ball correctly in order to not make a dogs dinner of it and make a par and move on.”
It was a two-horse race for much of the day despite a late charge from Colm Moriarty who threw in three birdies in his last six holes to sign for a 36-hole total of seven-under.
Rounds of 68 and 69 saw the Glasson man settle for third place as he came up just shy of his fifth win on the region this term.
David Ryan of East Cork and Eoin O’Connor of Kilkenny shared fourth on six-under while Brendan McGovern and Michael McDermott of the Grange were a shot further back.
Headfort’s McGovern trailed the lead by the minimum overnight but a one-over 73 saw him drift out of contention.