Ryan Fox leaves NI Open field trailing in his wake as he claims title

NI Open champion Ryan Fox and winning Amateur Colm Campbell

NI Open champion Ryan Fox and winning Amateur Colm Campbell

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Kiwi Ryan Fox left the field trailing in his wake on the way to victory in the Tayto NI Open in partnership with Ulster Bank.

The 29-year-old, started the day three shots behind the leader Dylan Frittelli, but quickly closed the gap with a scintillating burst of attacking golf, reaching the turn in six under 29.

He went on to equal the course record, firing a closing nine-under-par 62, which moved him clear of the field to win by four shots on 19-under-par 265.

The German duo of Dominic Foos (65) and Bernd Ritthammer (65), England’s Max Orrin (65) and South Africa’s Frittelli (69) formed the chasing pack but had to settle for a share of second as Fox eased away from the field.

“It’s always a great feeling to win,” said Fox, who will move onto the Olympics with a spring in his step.

“To be honest I played exactly how I played all week but got really hot with the putter.

“I thought I was flirting with the magical number (59) for a while but a three putt on 16 didn’t help that.”

Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey, played alongside Fox in the final round and hailed the win-

ner as a potential, world top 50 player.

“His score of 62 was phenomenal,” said Michael who closed with a final round 68 to finish eighth on 13-under.

“I thought six or seven under might have been good enough but the standard is so high out here.

“I'm happy to have done something this week. I wasn’t at my best, but happy that I did something in the tournament after missing the cut the last few years, not being able to give anything to the crowds.

“It was good fun out there. Most enjoyable time on the course I’ve had all year and the best I’ve played all year. I just have to take this form into the rest of the season.”

Winner of the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in 2015, Fox had previously played in four Challenge

Tour events in 2016, finishing second, tied fourth, tied seventh and tied 18th.

The son of former New Zealand All-Black legend, Grant Fox, Ryan said he could not have asked for better preparation for the Olympics which starts in less than two weeks.

“I couldn’t have played any better and it’s nice to go into the Olympics with some form,” he said.

“It’s hard to get your first win and sometimes it seems harder to keep doing it. It’s great to be a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour and build on the experience I had last year.

“It’ll be great in Rio, I’m looking forward to being part of the New Zealand team; we don’t get the opportunity very often in golf.

“There are three Challenge Tour players and a lot of ex-Challenge Tour players there.

"It shows the quality of this tour, and hopefully I can join the upper echelon of the guys who have graduated from the Challenge Tour.”

Starting the day on 10 under par, Fox registered a birdie and an eagle on the first two holes to draw level with Fritelli.

Four more birdies followed on the front nine as he made the turn in just 29 shots.

He added four birdies in the next six holes, but a bogey on 16 scuppered his hopes of shooting a 59 and so emulating the achievement of Nicolo Ravano in the recent Fred Olsen Challenge de España.

Damien McGrane finished tied for ninth on 11 under par after a 68.

Castledawson's Chris Selfridge was a shot further back on 10 under after closing with a two under 69.