THOMASTOWN, Ireland (AP) — Adrian Meronk became Poland’s first winner on the European tour Sunday with a superb closing stretch at Mount Juliet for a 6-under 66 and a three-shot victory in the Irish Open.
Meronk was one shot behind Ryan Fox of New Zealand with four holes remaining when he went birdie-birdie-eagle to give himself room for error on the tough closing hole. He made par and walked off the 18th green soaked in a champagne celebration.
“It’s such a relief,” Meronk said. “After coming quite close a couple of times, to finally open the door it’s just a dream come true.”
Fox closed with a 64, and he feared a bogey on the final hole might cost him in the end. Meronk played so well over the closing stretch that it didn’t matter.
Meronk, who finished at 20-under 268, Fox and Thriston Lawrence (67) already were exempt for the British Open. The three spots available from the Irish Open went to American John Catlin, David Law of Scotland and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay. They all finished on 273.
Meronk, who played college golf at East Tennessee State, will be the first Polish player in the British Open at St. Andrews in two weeks. That’s a label he knows well. He already was the first Pole in the U.S. Open last year at Torrey Pines, and the first to even earn a European tour card.
And now he’s the first winner, the best title of all. He had finished two shots behind in Qatar and Catalunya this year, and a month ago missed the Dutch Open playoff by one shot.
Meronk made sure there was no tight finish in Ireland. His big run started with a 25-foot birdie putt that broke sharply to the left on the 15th hole to tie Fox for the lead. From the left rough on the 16th, he hit gap wedge to 18 feet for birdie to take the lead.
The clincher came at the par-5 17th when his second shot was just short of the green, leaving an uphill putt from 25 feet that made for eagle and a three-shot advantage.
He finished strong with a 7-iron to the middle of the green and two putts for par. He was sprayed with a bottle of champagne and then took a drink before raising it to the gallery.
“When I hit the green on 18 is the moment I realized, ‘That’s it.’ I’m just super happy,” he said.
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