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Daniel Brown wins first DP World Tour title in Northern Ireland

Daniel Brown wins first DP World Tour title in Northern Ireland

Daniel Brown claimed his maiden DP World Tour victory in just his 20th start as he held his nerve for a five-shot win at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics.

The Englishman had been top of the leaderboard since carding an opening 64 and entered the final day with a six-shot lead, although he did not have it all his own way at Galgorm Castle.

He saw his advantage trimmed to two on the back nine but closed out victory with a 69 that saw him finish at 15 under ahead of Alex Fitzpatrick, who carded a finishing 68.

It has been a long road to the winner's circle for Brown, who played his first DP World Tour event at the 2015 KLM Open but had to wait seven years and two months for his second appearance.

In between he played on the EuroPro Tour and European Challenge Tour, playing no Ranking events in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, before earning his full playing privileges on the Challenge Tour for 2022 thanks to his third runner-up finish of the 2021 EuroPro Tour campaign at the season-ending Matchroom Tour Championship.

He finished 30th on last season's Road to Mallorca before graduating from the Qualifying School and after making 16 of 19 cuts this season - including his first 13 - and securing three top tens, he can now put a first professional victory on his CV at the age of 28.

"It feels amazing," said Brown, who moves to 35th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex after 12 consecutive sub-70 rounds. "I could never have dreamed this up in the past however many years and months.

“(My mum was) blubbering down the phone. I'm over the moon, but it probably hasn't sunk in yet. I don't know. I almost still feel like someone's going to crop up and say there's another day left or something. Crazy.

“Alex was playing really well. Probably played considerably better than I did. I just managed to hit some good shots after the blip on 11, 12, 13. Then I holed a couple of really nice putts and then I suppose once I hit that iron shot into 17, that was kind of fun. I thought 'this should be it if I don't do anything stupid, this should be over here'.

“I had his card. I was marking his card, so I knew exactly what he was doing. The leaderboard, every time I looked over my shoulder, the leaderboard was right next to me. So you can't get away from it. As much as people say that they don't watch leaderboards, they definitely do. 

"It was just a matter of just trying to compose myself again after 11, 12 and 13. I enjoyed the walk down 18 as well, which is nice because it's probably quite rare to enjoy that much of a lead walking down the last.”

Brown secured a tie for seventh at the Barbasol Championship last time out to move into the top 70 in the Race to Dubai and revealed the knowledge he would have a card for next season allowed him to change his mindset this week.

"America was a bit of a turning point," he said. "That gave me a lot of confidence that I can do it and I sewed my card up there pretty much, so this week and the rest of the year I'm just trying to enjoy it a bit more and freewheel."

A two-shot swing on the first quickly cut Brown's advantage to four as the leader three-putted and Fitzpatrick holed a 12-foot right-to-lefter from the fringe.

Wilco Nienaber - who also started the day six back - got in trouble around the green to record a double-bogey and with the players in third seven shots back, a two-horse race was already developing as Fitzpatrick birdied the second from 11 feet to get within three.

The leading duo both dropped shots at the third after coming up short of the green and Fitzpatrick made it back-to-back bogeys when he found a nasty greenside lie with his second at the fourth.

Brown had missed a good birdie chance at the fourth as he looked to steady the ship but he made no mistake after putting his tee-shot to six feet at the par-three fifth and a stunning approach to tap-in range at the next meant he was back where he started and six ahead.

Brown and Fitzpatrick both made two-putt birdies on the par-five tenth but there was the second two-shot swing of the day on the next as Fitzpatrick holed from 16 feet and Brown three-putted.

A failure to get up and down after missing the green on the 12th was followed by a poor tee-shot from Brown on the next and when he once again failed to save par after finding sand with his second, the lead was down to two.

But Brown holed from 25 feet on the 14th and 26 feet on the 15th for back-to-back birdies - with Fitzpatrick making a gain of his own on the latter - before a two-shot swing went his way as he put an approach to five feet at the 17th and Fitzpatrick failed to get up and down from the sand.

England's Eddie Pepperell had his best result of the season as he finished third at seven under after a third consecutive round of 68 achieved with a set of clubs he had built on-site on Wednesday.

South African Nienaber, Dane Marcus Helligkilde, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, England's John Parry and Scot Connor Syme finished at five under, one clear of English pair Matthew Baldwin and Matthew Southgate.

In the women's event, American Alexa Pano claimed victory on her 19th birthday after a three-hole play-off.

Ryann O'Toole had a three-shot lead at one point but fell back as Pano set the target at eight under with a 66, before England's Gabriella Cowley eagled the 72nd hole and playing partner Esther Henseleit made a birdie to take it to extra holes.

The German exited with a par on the first trip back up the 18th and while Cowley had a chance to win it next time around, it was Pano who prevailed at the third time of asking.