Mullarney holds his nerve to make major statement with Close success
Ronan Mullarney shook a monkey off his back when capturing the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship and his maiden 'major' at Ballybunion.
The Galwayman (23) might have looked like a bantamweight compared to big-hitting Rob Brazill, but he showed he had the ringcraft in the big moments to claim the title, holding off Elm Park's Charlie Denvir by one hole in the semi-final, before doing the same to beat the combative Brazill by the same margin in the final.
"I am delighted," Mullarney said after Brazill's 12-foot birdie putt to force an extra hole lipped out, confirming his triumph.
"It did absolutely grate on me that I haven't won one of these before."
After topping the qualifiers by six strokes on nine-under, Mullarney was determined to walk away with more than the silver and he achieved his goal impressively.
He's the first player to lead the qualifiers and win the title since Cormac Sharvin in 2013 and that bodes well for his future as he prepares to tee it up in the European Tour Qualifying School later this month.
Against Denvir, he looked to be cruising to a fast-track win when he went three up through five holes. But the young Dubliner took the match to the 18th, where Mullarney ground out a regulation four to win by the minimum.
A closing four was also enough to take the title against Brazill, who left Ballybunion guaranteed to finish the season inside the top three in the Bridgestone Order of Merit, which means he will win his first cap in next month's Home Internationals.
The 2018 West of Ireland winner had turned a two-hole deficit at the turn into a two-hole win in his semi-final clash with Dún Laoghaire's Alan Fahy.
But it was even harder going against the relentless Mullarney, who gave almost nothing away.
After winning the fourth with a conceded birdie, Mullarney lost the fifth to Brazill's birdie four, but then made a 15-footer to win the sixth.
Brazill won the eighth to draw level again, but conceded on nine to go one down and never got back on terms. Having failed to take advantage of Mullarney's bogey at the 12th, he did well to halve the 13th in birdie, but lost the 15th.
Mullarney three-putted the 17th to allow Brazill to take the match up the 18th thanks to a scrambling four, but the Kildare man couldn't find another birdie.
"Ronan just doesn't hit it off line," he said. "He's such a hard man to play against. You really want to be on your game against him."