Friday, 19 March 2010
Euan Little was beginning to think it might never happen but the nearly man of Scottish golf finally made the breakthrough when he won the Segura Viudas Challenge de Espana at Villamartin near Alicante.

A closing 68 for an 11-under-par tally of 277 left him a shot ahead of Spain's Jesus Maria Arruti, who broke the course record with 64, and two clear of England's Mark Foster and Carlos Larrain from Venezuela.

"It's been long overdue," said Little after collecting the first prize of £9,364. "This is my fifth year on the Challenge Tour and I've been runner-up twice. It never really hit when I finished my round but it's beginning to sink in now."

The 24-year-old from Stranraer got off to another perfect start with birdies at the first three holes. However, the short sixth proved his Achilles Heel again with a bogey as he drove into the trees. It left him four over for the tournament at that particular piece of real estate, but he soon got back on track with a 45-foot birdie putt at 8 to be out in 33.

Further birdies followed at the 11th and 15th and when Little stood on the tee at the 241-yard 17th he was two shot clear of Arruti. "I didn't know that until after I'd hit a four iron to the back fringe of the green," Little added.

"Then someone told me so instead of taking the pin on with a chip I decided to play safe and putted with a three wood through the rough. Although the ball finished 20 feet away, I took four because I knew I could make par down the last."

That's exactly what he did with a three wood and wedge to 18 feet followed by two putts. "The first finished three feet past which shouldn't have been but I made it," he said confidently.

Little's victory, the first by a Scot on the Challenge Tour since Greig Hutcheon's win at Formby Hall in 1999, lifts him to third on the rankings and he hopes it will give a boost to Scottish golf. "There are so many good players in Scotland and they must be thinking that if I can do it so can they."

Arruti must have felt he might achieve his first Challenge Tour victory since 1997 when he ripped the Villamartin course apart with his 64. It contained an eagle, seven birdies and one bogey, and it trimmed a shot off the previous best mark set b y his close friend Jose Maria Olazabal.

“I’m so pleased to have beaten Jose Maria’s record because I can’t even win a Coca Cola off him when we play together at home,” he said. “I’ve played as well on the other days but today I holed everything. The key was my putting. I only missed one putt, from five feet at the sixth.

“I didn’t know the course. This is my first time here. I’ve had three 62s on par 70 courses, but this was one of the best rounds of my life.

It was also a good day for Foster, who extended a remarkable run over the opening three tournaments of this Challenge Tour season. He was fourth in Kenya, won the title in Zambia and now joint third in Spain. His prize of 5,067 euro took him to the top of the rankings ahead of Ashley Roestoff with Euan Little now third.

Foster, who had an eagle and five birdies in his bogey-free 65, said: “I played well from tee to green but my putting was no that great. I didn’t hole anything really but I’m pleased with the score.”

But Larrain wasn’t so pleased. After leading the tournament for three days to put himself within sight of his maiden Challenge Tour victory, the 35-year-old Venezuelan could only match par with 72 to finish alongside Foster on 279.

There were other good scores on a perfect day England’s with Stuart Little shooting 67 to finish joint fifth on 280 with Ricardo Jimenez of Spain, while two more Spaniards, Emilio Rodrigeuz and Jose Rozadilla also returned 67s for joint seventh with Sweden’s Joakim Rask.

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