Rafael Cabrera-Bello’s stunning 60 in the final round of the Austrian Golf Open last year made headlines across Europe, but the most indelible impression was left on Benn Barham, the man who was beaten into second place.
The Englishman, who led going into the final round, admits he struggled for a long time to come to terms with coming so close, particularly when he lost his European Tour card at the end of the season. Victory at Fontana Golf Club would have given Barham a one year exemption on The European Tour, but Cabrera-Bello, eight shots behind at the start of the final round, snatched it from his grasp.
The 34 year old has vowed to return to The European Tour via the Challenge Tour, however, and he is spurred on by the fact he came within a whisker of his maiden Tour title.
“I was a very disappointed not to win and I thought I’d done enough,” Barham said. “I went out in the last round and shot two under, but for someone to shoot 60 in the last round is unheard of. For someone to shoot 60 in a tournament is unheard of, but to shoot it in the last round to beat me by one is just...people still talk about it every day.
“Everyone’s out for themselves so you’ve just got to play your best. I felt that I did and had done enough to win but you can’t control what others do. Winning would have changed a few things. I would have played in some nice tournaments in the second half of the season and it would have meant I’d be playing a full schedule on The European Tour this season so it was massive. It wasn’t just the money. I lost out on about €70,000 but it was not about that, it was about the playing opportunities.
“Afterwards I still had a lot of confidence because I’d been playing well and I knew I could win. But I didn’t really play that great towards the end of the season and it was at Qualifying School – Final Stage that I thought, ‘You know what, that really annoyed me’. I shouldn’t have been playing at Qualifying School, and I really didn’t play very well. If I’d had a better frame of mind going into that I probably would’ve got my card but still, you have to learn from these things.”
Barham has started the 2010 season well, coming tied 13th at the Africa Open on The European Tour in January and tied tenth at the Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour last month, and he has some clear goals in his sights.
“The aim for this season is to win one of the European Tour events I get to play in,” he said. “I get to play another six or seven so that’s my ultimate goal. Second is to keep my card from the Tour events that I get into. Failing that, I want to win three times on the Challenge Tour or finish in the top ten in the Rankings. So there’s a lot to aim for and I feel that they’re very achievable goals.
“It does still bug me now that I lost my card. It crosses my mind. But maybe it was a kick up the backside to work a bit harder and perhaps it happened for the best. If I had won, maybe I would’ve sat back and thought I’m where I want to be now and got complacent. I’m working really hard at the moment, changing a few things and doing lots of fitness work.
“I just have to take the positives from what happened and I’m playing really nicely at the moment so it’s going well.”