Chris Gane secured his second Challenge Tour title of the year when he came up on the rails to win the Terme Euganee International Open Padova in Italy. The 27 year old left-hander birdied two of the final three holes for a closing 66, which left him on 23 under par 265, and a shot clear of another Englishman, Philip Golding and Mattias Nilsson from Sweden.
Gane earned 19,000 euro, which hoists him from 24th to ninth on the Challenge Tour Rankings and virtually secures his European Tour card with one tournament, next month’s Grand Final, remaining.
Having secured his maiden title in the Austrian Open last May, Gane needed a high finish in Italy or in the Grand Final in Bordeaux to secure a top-15 place and he was well on course after starting the final round in Padova two strokes behind Golding.
But after eight straight pars, he had drifted three behind. Then the birdies started to come. Three on the trot from the ninth got him to 20 under while another at 13 saw him one behind Nilsson, who made a late surge of his own.
The 26 year old Swede got to 20 under with a birdie at the 15th, then holed for an eagle-three at the long 16th and eventually to set the clubhouse target at 22 under.
Only Gane or Golding were in a position to deny Nilsson, who signed for a 65 after going out in 32. Golding made no progress with an outward 36 but got his round going with successive birdies at 10 and 11. That put him on 21 under, while a further birdie at 13 put him level with Nilsson.
With five holes to play there was every chance Golding could improve his position and secure his first tour title in two years. But he three-putted the 15th and although he repaired the damage with a birdie at 16, another three putt at 17 put him one behind again.
Gane, his playing partner, got to the 16th tee level with Golding but one adrift of Nilsson. Then came that finishing burst. Gane birdied the long 16th from three feet before rolling in a five-footer at the short 17th for another birdie to go ahead. At the par four last he left his eight-iron approach 30 feet below the pin and his first putt five feet short.
But he kept his nerve to hole from there for par and a narrow victory, while Golding sank a six-footer for birdie and a closing 69 to tie with Nilsson for second spot on 266.
"I didn't know the situation playing the last," said Gane. "When I stood over my first putt I was so nervous that I left the ball five feet short. I still didn't know whether I was ahead or not and I just wanted to secure my par, which I did although I felt awful.
"It wasn't until the putt dropped and the other British boys came up to shake my hand that knew I had won. If you had said at the start of the season that I would win two titles I wouldn't have believed you. But I played well all week, putted great on superb greens and now I feel fantastic."
Another Swede, Mattias Eliasson, also eagled the long 16th to get to 21 under but couldn’t draw a birdie from the final two holes and finished with 66 for 267 and fourth place on his own, while Federico Bisazza was fifth with a 68 after chipping-in for an eagle three at the long 10th.
Six players finished joint sixth on 270, including two Italians, Stefano Reale, who repeated his first round 65, and Silvio Grappasonni with 67 along with Dennis Edlund with 67, and fellow Swede Martin Erlandsson with 69.
On the same mark were England's Richard Bland, who signed for a 68, which promotes him to 44th on the money list, while South Africa’s Ian Hutchings also carded 68 to move to 45th, and claim the final place in the Grand Final.
But Bristol's Simon Hurley missed out. A closing 72 for 277 dropped him to joint 36th in the tournament and 48th on the Order of Merit.
The final day’s play also brought a second hole-in-one of the week with Sweden’s Eric Carlberg sinking his five iron tee shot at the 183m 14th hole. This followed Hurley’s ace at the 12th in round one.