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PHOTO: O'Keeffe with the trophy after his seven-stroke win. Image by Golffile.
O'Keeffe arrived to the second of four events in this season's Bridgestone Order of Merit with confidence brimming after beating a high-quality field at last week's Mallow Scratch Cup.
With the win, O'Keeffe moves to third in the Bridgestone Order of Merit table with 118 points. After two events, Alan Fahy is in pole position on 158 points, 30 clear of Mullingar Scratch Trophy Champion Jason Rackard who closed with a four-over par 76 for a tied 15th result in Cork.
Solid foundationsConsecutive rounds of 70 lay the foundations for his title charge on Sunday but it was a third round of six-under par 66 that saw him assume control heading into the afternoon's final session.
Leading by three at 10-under par with 18-holes to play, the 2017 Flogas Irish Amateur Open champion put all that winning experience to use, refusing to take a backward step in a closing four-under 68 for a 14-under par tournament total and a seven shot win.
"It's nice to win like that," said a smiling O'Keeffe. "I knew I was playing well coming into this week. I wasn't happy at all with how I played yesterday, just too many mistakes, but today, at one point I didn't even know what score I was on, I was just really in every shot."
Any hope the chasing pack harboured in the afternoon was quickly dashed when O'Keeffe raced to four-under par through five holes on his final round, courtesy of two birdies and a chip-in eagle on the fifth.
And although he dropped three shots in four holes to make the turn in 35, with his lead momentarily reduced to three, he quickly extended the advantage with a birdie at 10, followed by another eagle at the par-5 11th as the Corkonian stamped his authority on the tournament down the stretch.
"That was big," he said of the birdie on 10. "I was getting a small bit tired around 8 and 9 and I just got myself together, birdied 10 and eagled 11."
"I knew it was over at that point but you still need to keep doing what you're doing - you can double-bogey or hit a loose tee-shot and you're under pressure but I didn't put myself under pressure coming in which was the main thing. It was nice and relaxed."
For his final act, O'Keeffe signed off in style with another birdie at the last to etch his name on the famous Cork Scratch Trophy, the significance of which wasn't lost on the Douglas man after years of trying.
"It's huge," O'Keeffe admitted after becoming the first Cork winner since Cathal Butler in 2016.
"I've a lot of friends here and this is one of my favourite golf courses. I bogeyed the last here a couple of years ago to lose by a shot but I generally play well here and I expected to do well. It's great, I love this place and it's brilliant to win this tournament now."
Although the final day belonged to one man, the podium places still had to be filled with Dun Laoghaire's Alan Fahy racing home in 67 strokes to capture the Carr Bruen Trophy as the leading player under 25.
Fahy shared second place alongside Thurles' Aaron Ryan at seven-under par. Three back of O'Keeffe starting the final round, Ryan could only post two even par efforts on Sunday and watch as Cork Golf Club delivered a Cork winner, and a worthy one at that.
The Bridgestone series next moves on to the Connacht Stroke Play Championship at Portmuna Golf Club on the 19th and 20th of September where Castle's Peter McKeever won in 2019.
FINAL LEADER BOARD: https://www.golfnet.ie/guilive#/competition/2023040/leaderboard