In-form Neil O’Briain justifies favourite tag with victory in Irish PGA Assistant’s Championship

Neil O'Briain with owner Julie Gilhooly
Neil O'Briain with owner Julie Gilhooly

Neil O’Briain fired a final round five under par 66 to steal the Irish PGA Assistant’s Championship title from under the nose of Paddy Small at the Nuremore Hotel and Country Club.

The 29-year- old was tied for fourth overnight and actually trailed long-time leader Small by six shots heading into the final 18 holes but he managed to produce his best round of the week when it really mattered.

It was the Old Conna GC man’s third win on the bounce and justified his tag as pre-tournament favourite.

“When Paddy got to eight under after three rounds I thought he might be too far ahead and I was shocked to find I was still in the reckoning when I came in to sign my card,” said the 29-year- old.

“I had a four-footer on 16 to reach eight under but missed that and I thought that I had blown my chance. It’s one of these things, with no live scoring on course you just keep fighting to the end and wait to see what happens when you come in.”

Small had reached eight under for the tournament with a third round 68 but faltered in round four, signing for a two-over 73 that opened the door to the rest of the competitors. He ended the tournament tied for second alongside the experienced Tim Rice who carded rounds of 72/69 yesterday.

“I have had a good run of it lately. Reached 11 under at Dunfanaghy, four under in the pre-tournament pro-am here and then seven under in the event so I really don’t want to stop playing at the minute,” added O’Briain.

“But I have to get back to the shop and I have some lessons to give as well. It will be nice to get back and show the trophy to a few people around the club.”