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John Ross Galbraith eyes big time while Joakim Lagergren grabs Northern Ireland Open title

By Peter Hutcheon

Now that John Ross Galbraith has had a taste of the big time, he's hungry for a little more.

The 20-year-old amateur from Whitehead loved every minute of his first look at life in the professional ranks at the Northern Ireland Challenge Open at Galgorm Castle, which was won by Sweden's Joakim Lagergren yesterday.

Galbraith put together a one under 70 in his final round to claim a share of 56th place, a more than creditable performance in his first event at this level.

"I loved every minute of it," he said.

"And I didn't really feel that I played my best. I drove it well, but I struggled with my irons all week and never really hit it close enough and my putting could have been better.

"I expected that standard to be good, but nothing I saw really shocked me.

"I know now that I can compete at this level and it was a great learning experience for me."

More than 34,000 people flocked to Galgorm over the four days, making it the best-ever attended Challenge Tour event.

They would dearly have loved to have seen an Ulsterman in contention, but the best the local contingent could offer came in the form of Jonny Caldwell and Gareth Shaw, who ended up in a share of 12th place, seven shots adrift of Lagergren.

The 22-year-old Swede, who broke the course record on Thursday with his 62, held a six shot lead heading into the final round 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 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 10th 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.

"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."

Bernadet, meanwhile, collected his second runner-up finish of the season 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 10 under.

Belfast Telegraph

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