THOMASTOWN, Ireland ( Associated Press) – Adrian Meronek became Poland’s first winner on the European Tour on Sunday, pulling off a brilliant closing stretch for 6-under 66 at Mount Juliet and a three-shot win at the Irish Open.
Meronck was one shot behind New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, with four holes remaining, when he went birdie-birdie-eagle to make room for the error himself on the difficult closing hole. He made the par and went with the 18th green soaked in champagne festivities.
“It’s such a relief,” Meronek said. “After coming close enough a couple of times, finally opening the door is like a dream come true.”
Fox closed with 64, and feared that a bogey on the final hole might cost him at the end. Meronek played so well at the closing stretch that it didn’t matter.
Meronek, who finished at 20-under 268, Fox and Thriston Lawrence (67), had already been exempted 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 ended on 273.
Meronek, who plays college golf in the eastern Tennessee state, will be the first Polish player in two weeks at the British Open in St. Andrews. It’s a label he knows very well. He was already the first pole at last year’s US Open at Torrey Pines, and even the first to earn a European Tour card.
And now he is the first winner, the best title. He was two shots behind in Qatar and Catalunya this year and missed the Dutch Open playoffs a month earlier by one shot.
Meronek made sure there were no tight ends in Ireland. His big run began with a 25-foot birdie put that broke sharply to the left on the 15th hole to tie Fox for the lead. From left rough on the 16th, he hits the gap wedge for 18 feet to give the birdie the lead.
Clincher came on the 17th par-5 when his second shot was short of the green, leaving a climb from 25 feet that made for Eagle and a three-shot advantage.
He strengthened the middle of the green with a 7-iron and two putts for par. A bottle of champagne was sprayed on her and then had a drink before she was picked up in the gallery.
“When I hit the beat at 18, I realized, ‘That’s it.’ I am just super happy,” he said.