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Joakim Lagergren (pictured by Getty Images) claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge in association with Maui Jim Sunglasses after the Swede produced a grandstand finish, holing an eight foot clutch putt at the last for a birdie and a one-stroke victory.

While the 22 year old held a six shot lead heading into the final round at the packed Galgorm Castle, where crowds of over 34,000 flocked through the gates all week, 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 duly obliged and launched a relentless early challenge for the title 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 tenth edged him one clear again but he suffered a rocky finish, with bogeys either side of a birdie at the 16th meaning he stepped onto the 18th tee tied for the lead and needing to make a gain to avoid a play-off and claim the win.

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 under the most intense pressure to roars of jubilation from the crowds that packed the grandstand and surrounded the green.

“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.

“That chip was probably my best shot of the week because it was a tough lie and I don’t think I could have done any better with it.

“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, I did a great job over the last three holes with two birdies.”

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 prospect Dermot McElroy.

With 13,180 coming out in the perfect conditions on the final day, Lagergren believes the support of the crowds helped lift him to victory.

“The crowds have been great this week,” he said. “The last couple of holes it was like a European Tour tournament, for sure.

“When I came off the tee at the 18th there were just people everywhere, from where I was standing, 500 metres in front of me to up around the green and in the grandstand. 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. It feels like I can almost touch my goals for the season now, whereas before I almost couldn’t see them.”

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 while Englishmen Steven Brown, Kenneth Ferrie and Charlie Ford were joined in fifth place by South Africa’s Brandon Stone, on ten under.

Golf Results:

271 J Lagergren (Swe) 62 71 66 72,
272 A Bernadet  (Fra) 68 70 68 66,
273 B Ritthammer (Ger) 68 70 69 66, J Lando Casanova  (Fra) 68 71 69 65,
274 S Brown (Eng) 65 69 72 68, B Stone (RSA) 69 67 69 69, K Ferrie (Eng) 68 68 71 67, C Ford (Eng) 70 70 66 68,
275 M Orrin (Eng) 66 71 68 70,
276 T Sluiter  (Ned) 67 70 68 71, P Maddy (Eng) 69 70 69 68,
278 D Kemmer (USA) 66 69 72 71, N Quintarelli (Ita) 69 75 64 70, G Shaw (Nir) 67 72 69 70, M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra) 70 74 65 69, J Caldwell  (Nir) 65 73 69 71,
279 M Haines  (Eng) 71 71 65 72, R McEvoy  (Eng) 67 73 68 71, S Henry  (Sco) 72 69 68 70, A Snobeck  (Fra) 64 78 68 69, T Linard (Fra) 67 68 72 72, C Paisley  (Eng) 72 67 72 68,
280 E Espana (Fra) 71 70 69 70, A McArthur  (Sco) 69 72 73 66, J Sjöholm (Swe) 68 72 70 70, K Benz (Sui) 67 76 70 67, R Davies (Wal) 68 70 68 74, M Lafeber (Ned) 72 72 67 69,
281 P Dwyer (Eng) 69 72 69 71, R Russell (Sco) 71 70 66 74, S Arnold  (Aus) 70 74 68 69, J Harrison (Eng) 69 73 70 69, R Kind (Ned) 68 73 70 70, J Edfors (Swe) 68 75 69 69, T Murray (Eng) 74 68 70 69, S Little (Eng) 70 70 71 70,
282 B Åkesson (Swe) 71 73 70 68,
283 N Kearney (Irl) 68 75 72 68, J Garcia Del Moral (Esp) 70 74 71 68, R Gowers (Eng) 71 71 69 72, D Stewart (Sco) 70 74 69 70, J Stalter (Fra) 72 71 69 71, M Ford (Eng) 71 68 70 74,
284 A Dunbar (Nir) 70 74 73 67, J Winther (Den) 69 75 68 72, J Maw (Eng) 68 74 71 71,
285 C Hanson (Eng) 68 74 71 72, J Huldahl (Den) 70 73 69 73, A Björk (Swe) 68 74 68 75,
286 G Cambis  (Fra) 68 76 70 72, R McGowan  (Eng) 66 72 72 76, B Virto  (Esp) 74 69 72 71, M Delpodio  (Ita) 69 73 71 73, C Shave (Eng) 72 72 71 71, C Kelly (Sco) 72 72 74 68,
287 M Murphy  (Irl) 72 70 74 71, J Guerrier  (Fra) 74 70 67 76, C Aguilar  (Esp) 69 73 71 74, J Galbraith (am) (Nir) 70 72 75 70,
288 C Shinkwin (Eng) 68 76 73 71, J Senior (Eng) 72 71 73 72, D McElroy (am) (Nir) 67 73 74 74,
289 W Booth  (Sco) 67 76 73 73,
291 A Wrigley (Eng) 70 74 76 71, J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 73 71 76 71,
293 P Figueiredo  (Por) 68 76 70 79,

Source: European Tour

Author

Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK

The GolfblogspotUK website is owned and run by former Walker Cup player and European Tour card holder, Graham J Gordon, from Scotland, the Home of Golf. The owner is a golf fanatic who had to retire early from competitive tour play due to a back injury that required surgery. Graham wishes to share his knowledge and own experiences of the game with the GolfblogspotUK community and to receive your feedback on all aspects of the sport. Graham has been playing the game for over 20 years and received a great deal of pleasure from the sport. He has met several friends and visited many different places around the world, thanks to playing the great game of golf. Time to put a little back into the game to help others.

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