A level-par final round saw Tom McKibbin post a highly-respectable T20 finish on his return to home shores as a DP World Tour winner, but Daniel Brown wasn’t for catching as the Englishman secured a maiden Tour win at Galgorm Castle in the ISPS HANDA World Invitational.
After a Jekyll and Hyde first two days, the Holywood youngster will likely be a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to crack the top-10 in the final round, but a run of three bogeys in succession from five through seven undone the early good work that had seen him post back-to-back birdies on two and three. Two more bogeys on 11 and 12 ruled out a top-10, but after a birdie on 14, he’d provide a grandstand finish for the home fans by rolling in a 30-foot eagle putt on the last to make his way back to level for the day and the tournament.
But that was early in the day, and at the business end of the tournament, Englishman Brown saw his six-shot overnight advantage shaved only slightly as he posted a one-under round of 69 to reach 15-under and secure a five-stroke victory over countryman Alex Fitzpatrick.
The 28-year-old, who earned his playing privileges via the DP World Tour Qualifying School in 2022, started with a bogey for the second day in succession before another dropped shot arrived at the third.
He returned to level terms with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth, before entering red numbers for the first time at the par five tenth. Then came a real test of his mettle as he dropped a shot at each of the next three holes with Fitzpatrick ready to pounce.
However, the former EuroPro Tour and Challenge Tour player showed the prowess which had seen him post rounds of 64-66-67 over the first three days, as he birdied the next two holes and the par four 17th to ensure he could paint the perfect picture and enjoy the walk up 18 with a five-stroke advantage.
Fitzpatrick recorded his career-best finish to date with a two-under par 68 to finish solo second, while Eddie Pepperell secured his highest finish on the 2023 Race to Dubai as he continued the English dominance in third place on seven under par.
“I could never have dreamed this up in the past,” Brown said afterwards, “however many years or whatever it is. I don’t think it’s sunk in but, yeah, amazing.
“She’s blubbering down the phone (his mother). I’m over the moon, but it probably hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know. I almost still feel like someone’s going to crop up and say there’s another day left or something. But yeah, crazy.
“Alex was playing really well. Probably played considerably better than I did. I just managed to hit some good shots after the blip on 11, 12, 13. Then I holed a couple of really nice putts and then I suppose once I hit that iron shot into 17, that was kind of fun. I thought this should be it if I don’t do anything stupid, this should be over here.
“I had his card. I was marking his card, so I knew exactly what he was doing. The leaderboard, every time I looked over my shoulder, the leaderboard was right next to me. So you can’t get away from it. As much as people say that they don’t watch leaderboards, they definitely do. It was just a matter of just trying to compose myself again after 11, 12 and 13. I enjoyed the walk down 18 as well, which is nice because it’s probably quite rare to enjoy that much of a lead walking down the last.”