Naas bomber, Robert Brazill has been crowned the 2018 West of Ireland champion after a nail-biting victory over Castle’s Alex Gleeson at Rosses Point.
The 21-year-old needed all 18-holes to final overcome a dogged Gleeson 1UP to claim one of the game’s most illustrious titles and the year’s opening Major.
“That’s the best golf I’ve played in a long, long time,” gushed a delighted Brazill, who completed his round in three under par.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” he acknowledged. “I never thought I would get to here, especially at this stage. I’ve put a lot of work in this winter.”
Brazill had earlier beaten a hugely spirited, Jack Madden from Royal Portrush 2&1 in their semi-final while Gleeson got the better of the experienced James Fox with a 1UP victory of his own to advance from the final four.
The decider was full of ebbs and flows as the rained teemed down at times across the Sligo coastline. Brazill went 1UP through 4 before a stunning eagle for Gleeson on 5 drew the match all square.
They halved the 6th before Gleeson holed a 35-foot raking putt for birdie on 7 to restore his advantage. As the crowds started to gather despite the rain, Gleeson lost one right off the 8th tee to allow Brazill the chance to restore parity which he duly accepted.
The players halved the 9th in 3s as the standard of the match showed no signs of abating in the typically damp conditions. Gleeson missed a four-footer on 12 to hand Brazill the lead with the pair halving the par-3 13th in 3s.
The pivotal moment of the match came on the 14th as Gleeson lost his tee shot way right. Forced to take an unplayable, it gave Brazill the initiative as the Kildare man went 2UP with four to play.
They halved 15 and with time running out, Gleeson went to the well and came up with water. With Brazill missing the green left, he failed to get up and down and with Gleeson in in 3, the deficit was all of a sudden reduced to one.
The pair hit two sumptuous tee shots down 17 with neither taking full advantage. In a battle of the short games, both left themselves with plenty of work to do after wayward chip shots and both would miss their crucial putts.
Again they struck gold off the tee down 18 with Gleeson realistically needing a birdie to have any chance to force a playoff. His approach set him up for that birdie from 15 feet with Brazill inside the Dubliner in two.
With both men applauded onto the green, Gleeson nailed his birdie putt to mount all the pressure on the 21-year-old’s shoulders. From eight feet, Brazill refused to be deterred, holing out for the sweetest win of his short career to date.
“I hammered it in the back,” said Brazill, describing the winning putt. In doing so, he becomes the third man from Naas in four years to claim the title of West of Ireland championship, following in the footsteps of Jack Hume and Jonathan Yates in capturing the coveted title.
As for Gleeson, he was understandably disappointed but can hold his head high regardless after a brilliant effort.
“It’s disappointing now but I put in a good showing,” he reflected. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season. This is a really good start. I had never made it to Monday before at the West so to make it all the way to the final game was really something for me and I can take a lot of positives from this week.”
Brazill and Gleeson now occupy the top two positions in the Bridgestone Order of Merit, which puts them in the frame for automatic selection on the Ireland team at this year’s Home Internationals. There are seven more events to be played in the Bridgestone series. Next up is the Munster Stroke Play at Cork from 5-6 May.