Lagergren holds nerve to win NI Open at Galgorm Castle

Joakim Lagergren
Joakim Lagergren

Joakim Lagergren claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge in association with Maui Jim Sunglasses holing an eight foot clutch putt at the last for a birdie and a one-stroke victory.

The 22 year old had a six shot lead heading into the final round at the packed Galgorm Castle, but it was certainly not plain sailing as he bogeyed two of the first three holes to open the door for the chasing pack.

Frenchman Adrian Bernadet launched an early challenge with five birdies on the front nine taking him into a share of the lead as Lagergren reached the turn.

A birdie for the Stockholm player at the 10th edged him one clear again but he stumbled again, with bogeys either side of a birdie at the 16th meaning he stepped onto the 18th tee tied for the lead and needing to a birdie to avoid a play-off.

When his second shot found the second cut of rough at the right edge of the green, he had to do it the hard way but he did so with nerveless efficiency, chipping to eight feet before sinking the putt.

“This means a lot to me,” said Lagergen, who signed for a one over par final round 72 for a 13 under total.

“I’m so proud and I’m so happy

“I got a little bit stressed, I have to say. After nine holes I was tied for the lead with Adrian and then I knew I had to really get going and play some good golf.

“I played a little bit better on the back nine, not as good as I wanted to but obviously it was enough so I’m happy with that.

“I got the information on the 18th fairway that I needed birdie but I was going for it in two anyway.

“I hit a three wood off the tee and then I had a three wood in and it was a great chip and a great putt.

“When the putt dropped it was a big relief. It almost felt like I couldn’t go out and win the tournament on the final day, I could only lose it.

“I had a six shot lead and being tied going into the last, I was nervous, I really was.

“I had to make birdie at the last so I’m really proud of myself.”

Lagergren, who moved from 117th to 35th in the Challenge Tour rankings, mentioned prior to his final round that he felt a special affinity with the knowledgeable and supportive Northern Irish crowds, many of whom followed him all week as he played his opening two rounds with local amateur Dermot McElroy.

“The last couple of holes it was like a European Tour tournament,” he said.

“When I came off the tee at the 18th there were just people everywhere.

“It was an incredible image and one I’m going to keep in my mind for a long time.

“There were a lot of people and it was so fun to play for them.

“They’ve been cheering me on and it’s been great.

“I needed this win because I haven’t been playing great this season and it’s great for the confidence.”

Bernadet, meanwhile, collected his second runner-up finish of the season – his first coming at the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open in March – after a five under 66 left him on 12 under par and the 29 year old moved to 16th in the Rankings.

His compatriot Jerome Lando Casanova shared third place on 11 under par with Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer.

“This was a deserved victory from Joakim, in what turned out to be a thrilling finish to this superb tournament,” said Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster who presented the trophy to the winner.

“The combination of quality golf from players on the Challenge Tour and a family friendly golf village and food festival has proven to be a real winner when it comes to drawing a crowd.”