Dan Brown. DPWT

Dan Brown claimed his first DP World Tour victory in style in his 20th start as he held his nerve for a five-shot win at the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle.

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 10s, 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 after 12 consecutive sub-70 rounds.

“I could never have dreamt this up in the past however many years and months.

“I didn’t really putt great yesterday, it was a bit nervy, I was struggling to get the pace and it was kind of similar again today. Once we got down the closing stretch… I was just trying to make sure it was a decent holeable pace.”

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.