Mark Foster, the former double English champion from Worksop, clinched his first professional victory and consequently his maiden Challenge Tour title when he won the Stanbic Zambia Open in Lusaka. A closing 68 for a 14-under-par tally of 278 left the 25 year old a shot clear of fellow Englishman Stuart Little and South Africa’s Jaco Olver.
Despite his amateur successes, which also included a victorious Walker Cup appearance in 1995 and England calls, Foster's professional career had been in the doldrums until the latter part of last season when he began to find his feet on the Challenge Tour.
Top-10 finishes in the Beazer Homes Challenge Tour Championship at Bowood and in the Tessali Open del Sud proved he could succeed at this level while fourth place in Kenya last week provided the springboard for his first victory in the pro ranks.
Quiet by nature, Foster usually lets his clubs do the talking. But after lifting the trophy he said: "I m just very pleased to have won my first tournament victory as a pro. I must also say the greens were very difficult while I'd like to thank my caddie on whom I greatly relied on for this win."
Olver had set the final day alight when he ripped the Lusaka course apart with nine birdies in a flawless 64. Four came in an outward 31 and five more flowed as he came home in 33 to set the target, which for most of the day looked as if it might be enough.
But Foster thought differently. He began the day two strokes behind Little but as the Gloucester man stumbled, Foster was soon ahead with three front nine birdies to be out in 33. Three more birdies saw him home in 35
Left-hander Little, one ahead of Graeme van der Nest at the start of play, ran into trouble on the front nine with two bogeys, a double-bogey and just one birdie to be out in 38. Seeing the title slipping from his grasp, he bounced back with an eagle and three birdies in a homeward 33 but he still came up one short in a tie with Olver.
Scottish duo, Euan Little and Roger Beames, both returned 68 to share fourth place on 280, while first round leader, Ulrich van den Berg, secured sixth spot on his own with a closing 69.
Van der Nest dropped back with a 73 and had to settle for a share of seventh place with fellow Springbok Andre Cruse (68) and England’s Lee James (69), while it was also a disappointing day for Swedes Marten Olander and Mattias Nilsson and former Zambia champion Marc Cayeux, all within sight of the title.
Olander never found the form of his previous day’s 65 and finished 10 shots worse for 286, Nilsson added a second successive 73 for 284, and Cayeux finished with 74 for 285.
It was also a disappointing day for Alan McLean, who didn't even get to tee off after he was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score card at the end of his third round on Saturday.
The incident didn't come to light until Sunday morning when Sunshine Tour Director Theo Manyama disclosed that McLean had broken the local preferred lies rule on the 9th hole.
Manyama said: "The rule states that if the ball comes to rest on any closely mowed areas, the ball may be lifted only once, cleaned, and placed within one club length. When the ball is so placed, the ball is in play. But McLean moved it twice."