Nino Bertasio emerged the outright tournament leader from an enthralling three-way battle in the final group on day three of the Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort, holing a monster putt at the last for a crucial par to move one shot clear.
On a day when the lead changed hands numerous times between the three playing partners Bertasio, Robert Coles and Tom Murray, the moving day drama came to a fittingly thrilling conclusion as the Italian sank a 40 footer having found the water with his drive.
It was nice to come out on top, I’m very proud
His four under par 68 was a shot better than the two others and he moved to 14 under for the tournament, but Coles – who shared the halfway lead alongside Bertasio – remains on the coat-tails of the leader, just one back on 13 under.
The 27 year old was delighted to have come out the better from such an intense battle and especially to finish on such a high note in front of the Irish crowds.
“It was great,” said the Brescia player. “There were a lot of people and I was delighted to make that putt and get such a huge cheer from the crowds.
“I played great on the back nine, made some putts and made a lot of good shots and all three of us played great to be honest.
“I got off to a solid start and Tom struggled a bit at the beginning, then he started making birdies and an eagle too. I hit a bad tee shot on ten, made a bad bogey, then I made another on 11. Then I had three birdies in a row from 11 and another at 17, and it was nice to finish with that par.
“It was nice to come out on top, I’m very proud but there is still tomorrow and Robert is playing well, Tom is playing well, I saw a lot of good scores today so you have to play good golf to win, definitely.
“It looks like the guys are making a lot of birdies so I’ve got to just keep playing well tomorrow, hitting fairways and greens and picking up birdies myself.
“It’s definitely important for me because if I play well I can get in to China and maybe even Oman, two very big tournaments, so it can change my season.”
Coles, pictured above, was thoroughly looking forward to the final day at the stunning Carlow venue and the experienced three-time Challenge Tour winner said that the buzz of playing in the final group on Sunday remains as exciting as ever.
“I started with nine pars and eight were pretty steady and then one was ridiculously all over the place. I holed a big putt for a par five there so that felt like a birdie really. I was steady apart from that and then on the back nine I started to take my chances and I played much better coming in.
“For most of the round I thought Tom played the best really, he was stone dead a lot and played really well. Then he just had two bad holes which soiled his day but Nino played well and got out of trouble when he needed to.
“I’m delighted to be in the last group. It was a bit of a battle at times today and I didn’t feel my best, but the physio Poora Singh has kept me going so a big thanks to him. To get through today was good for me.
“The excitement never changes for me, but I probably haven’t put myself into contention as much as I’d like to. I’ve done it a few times and it’s definitely a different feeling from what you’re used to because most weeks unfortunately you’re not up there.
“When you do the adrenaline gets up and it’s exciting. You can’t make too big a deal out of it in terms of the season but my aim is just to secure top 45 (in the Road to Oman Rankings) and move forward from there. If I have a good day tomorrow then I could be even better but you can never tell how it will end up.”
Murray, above, shared third place with South African Brandon Stone, who carded a five under back nine for a 67 that earned him a place in the final group.