Sweden's Marten Olander ended six years without a victory when he won the Hardelot Challenge de France. A closing 70 for 268, 16 under par, left the 29 year old a stroke ahead of Scotland's Scott Drummond, who also returned 70, and two clear of fellow Swede, Magnus Persson, England's Andrew Butterfield and Gary Murphy from Ireland.
It was also Olander’s maiden Challenge Tour title and he was a relieved man after securing the par he needed at the tough final hole.
"I wanted to win before I turned 30 and my birthday is three weeks away," he said. "Winning is a great relief because I've given myself so many chances but never taken them. But today was my day,"
After a week of autumn sunshine, the final round was played in overcast conditions but it was just to Olander's liking. After carding 18 birdies in his previous two rounds, he rationed himself to just three. But that was enough especially as Drummond bogeyed the par four 18th from 18 feet to deny himself a play off.
"I played solid but made a few mistakes with my wedge play today," said Drummond. "I wasn't getting up to the hole from 80 yards. It was a shame that the bogey at 18 cost me a playoff but it is a tough finishing hole and I didn't hit my drive that well which meant I couldn't reach the green in regulation."
Butterfield, who is enjoying a return of form after a wretched season, finished with a seven-birdie 67 for joint third spot on 270. “I’ve had too many bogeys this week fore the good golf I’m playing but this is better than I’ve performed all year,” he said.
“I might have finished alongside Scott in second place but on the 17th green I saw I was one shot off the lead and I rushed my first putt from 30 feet four feet past an missed the return. But it’s been a good week.”
Persson got to 15 under with three successive birdies from the turn, but he dropped a shot at the short 14th and couldn’t get it back over the final stretch, eventually signing for 68.
Murphy, who was another to sign for 70, made no progress over his first five holes but then things began to happen. He took two putts to birdie the long 6th, then holed from 15 feet for another at the 7th. Although he missed the green at the next to drop a shot, he bounced back to birdie the 9th from 15 feet to be out in 34.
That put him on 15 under and a stroke behind Olander. But he couldn't find a birdie on the back nine and drove into the trees at the par four 15th to take another bogey on his way to a homeward 36.
"I holed no putts at all on the back nine," he said. Nevertheless, joint third represents his best Challenge Tour finish.
Klas Eriksson was seeking his second victory of the year and although he closed with 68 for sixth spot, he was to regret a bogey at 18.
Victory hoists Olander into 10th place on the Challenge Tour rankings and within touching distance of his tour card for next year. Drummond climbs to 19th, but Welshman Jamie Donaldson missed the chance to take over as No.1 when he also bogeyed the last for a 73 and joint seventh on 272 along with three Englishmen, Chris Gane, who went round in 67, and Miles Tunnicliff and Simon Khan, both of whom returned 70.