NI Open: Scotland's Calum Hill claims dramatic victory after Scott Henry collapse
Scotland's Calum Hill clinched a one-stroke victory at the Northern Ireland Open after a dramatic late collapse by his compatriot Scott Henry.
Henry, 31, appeared a certain winner as he led by three on 22 under par after 15 holes.
However, a double bogey on 16 was followed by two closing bogeys at Galgorm Castle.
That handed victory to Hill, 23, who finished with a 64 thanks to birdies at four of his final five holes.
Henry's 69 left him sharing second place on 18-under-par with Welshman Stuart Manley who shot a closing 68.
Ardglass native Cormac Sharvin finished leading Irishman in a share of ninth as a 67 left him on 14-under.
Kinross man Hill qualified for the US Open in June but was playing in only his fifth European Challenge Tour event.
The 23-year-old had an impressive collegiate career in the US and worked as an assistant golf coach at his former university, Western New Mexico, for a time after his graduation.
Henry shell-shocked by late collapse
Henry's best European Tour finish is a share of fourth spot in the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship with his only previous Challenge Tour victory coming at the 2012 Kazakhstan Open.
Having looked certain to end that six-year search for a victory, Henry, who started the week 70th in the Challenge Tour rankings, couldn't hide his upset after Sunday's turn of events.
"To finish the way I finished is pretty devastating," said the Glaswegian, who started the final day in a share of lead on 16-under with France's Victor Perez.
Henry appeared to have done the hard work by finding the fairway on 16 but a pulled six-iron to a horrible spot led to a double bogey.
He then attempted to opt for safety by hitting an iron off the 17th tee only to again go left into trouble and another miss on the same side completed his miserable finish as he clipped a tree with his attempted escape.
The 31-year-old played his opening 15 holes in six under par to take an apparently firm grip on the tournament.
"I knew exactly what the situation was (on the 16th tee) and I was feeling fine to be honest. I hit a good tee shot and just combined a bad shot with not getting the wind right for the second shot.
"I had still lost only one shot to Stu (Manley) who was my closest rival at that point. But then I just hit bad shots from there.
"I thought I maybe had a wee bit of a recovery shot (on 18) from the stuff on the left but it's hit the tiniest tree ever and bounced back towards me."
Victory didn't even cross my mind - Hill
Outside the scorers' hut, winner Hill could only console his compatriot before admitting that he could scarcely believe his unlikely victory.
"I didn't even think it would be close. It didn't even cross my mind as I was playing 18. I hit two nice shots and just tried to give the putter a run (as the eagle putt just missed) and thought it was a nice way to finish a great nine holes," said Hill.
Having started the week 169th in the Challenge Tour rankings, Hill is guaranteed a presence on the second-tier tour next year and may now be in a position to launch a late bid for a main tour card in the closing weeks of the campaign.
"To now have a category and have everything sorted is a bit of a joke," added Hill.
Joint overnight leader, Perez dropped out of contention after dropping four shots over his opening six holes but regrouped on the back nine to fire a level-par 71 which left him sharing fourth with England's Jack Singh Brar and 36-hole leader Korean Minkyu Kim.
Top Irishman Sharvin's share of ninth spot was his best finish of the season and ended a period of recent struggles for the County Down man.
Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell, like Sharvin a former Walker Cup player, was two shots further back after a closing 67 which left him sharing 13th while Ballymena man Dermot McElroy was also inside the top 20 after his 68.