Island tour

Meronk first Polish winner on European tour with Irish win

Adrian Meronk became the first Polish winner of the European tour on Sunday with a stunning home stretch at Mount Juliet for a 6-under 66 and a three-stroke win at the Irish Open.

Meronk was one shot behind New Zealand’s Ryan Fox with four holes to play when he went birdie-birdie-eagle to give himself room for error on the tough closing hole. He made par and left the 18th green drenched in a champagne celebration.

“It’s such a relief,” Meronk said. “After getting close a few times, finally opening the door is just a dream come true.”

Fox finished with a 64, and he feared a bogey on the final hole would cost him in the end. Meronk played so well down the stretch that it didn’t matter.

Meronk, who finished 20-under 268, Fox and Thriston Lawrence (67) were already byes for the British Open. The three spots available at 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 to play at the British Open at St. Andrews in two weeks. It’s a label he knows well. He was already the first Pole at the US Open last year in Torrey Pines, and the first to even earn a European tour card.

And now he is the first winner, the best title of all. He had finished two strokes behind in Qatar and Catalonia this year, and a month ago he missed the Dutch Open qualifiers by one stroke.

Meronk made sure there was no tight finish in Ireland. His big run started with a 25-foot birdie putt that snapped hard left on the 15th hole to tie Fox in the lead. From the rough left on the 16, he hit a wide corner at 18 feet for the birdie to take the lead.

The clincher came on the par-5 17th when his second shot was just short of the green, leaving a 25-foot uphill putt that made an eagle and a three-stroke advantage.

He finished strong with a 7-iron to the middle of the green and two putts for par. He doused himself with a bottle of champagne then took a sip before taking it up to the gallery.

“When I hit the green on the 18th, that’s when I realized, ‘This is it.’ I’m just super happy,” he said.

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