With no golfing role models from Poland, Adrian Meronk cited Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods as idols when he was growing up, saying he wanted to be like them.
Yesterday, he emulated both, following in Woods’ footsteps by winning at Mount Juliet and McIlroy’s by winning the Horizon Irish Open with a jaw-dropping final four holes.
Adorned with green on his hat and shoes which he hoped in Ireland “might bring some luck”, the 29-year-old became the first Polish player to win on the DP World Tour by birdieing the 15th and 16th to claim a one-shot lead before eagling the par-five 17th to secure a three-shot victory over former NI Open champion Ryan Fox and his maiden Tour win.
When it was all said and done, Meronk finished with a five-under 67 to end the week at 20-under-par as he finally snapped a run of near misses to enter the winner’s circle, having finished in the top-six on six prior occasions this season.
“To be honest, yeah I did,” said Meronk on whether he ever believed he would get over the line.
“I had a good feeling about this week. Especially coming after a break, obviously a couple of close finishes this year, and I had this experience coming into Sunday.
“Such a relief, to be honest. I’ve been a couple of times close this year, so to close it off in Ireland in the Irish Open, such a special event on the schedule, it’s really special for me and I’m very excited.”
It was a thrilling finish at Mount Juliet as six different players all held the lead at one point during the day, and it seemed destined to go to a play-off, but eventually Meronk prevailed.
First round leader Fox had carded a statement eagle of his own at the 17th, which saw him both start and end his week with eight-under 64s, and he set the early clubhouse lead at 17-under, and one by one the challengers fell away behind him.
Thriston Lawrence was the first as he bogeyed the 18th to finish third at 16-under after a 67, followed by the trio of former Irish Open champion John Catlin, David Law and Fabrizio Zanotti, who all finished tied-fourth at 15-under but would claim the consolation prize of places at next week’s 150th Open at St Andrews as the top three finishers not already qualified.
But after his so many near misses, Meronk this time would not be denied. The World No.110 had seen his one-shot overnight lead turned into a one-shot deficit by the time he reached the 15th tee, but his inspired finish was enough for history.
“It’s been like this ever since I turned pro. I never had anyone to look up to and I was the first one from Poland. To be honest, I quite like it,” he smiled.
“I set new goals every year to go a step forward, and it’s been working quite nicely so far. Really exciting for me to be the first one from Poland, for sure.”