England’s Lee S James claimed his third title of the year to place a strangehold on the European Challenge Tour Rankings when he edged out countryman Matthew Blackey by two strokes in the Talma Finnish Challenge at Golf Talma.
The 29 year old from Poole in Dorset shot rounds of 64-67-70-68 for a 19 under par total of 269 to overturn a one shot deficit going into the final day. Blackey, the 54 hole leader, returned a 71 for 271 to take second place with another Englishman, David Ryles, in third place on 274 after a closing 64.
However, the day belonged to James, who won on the Challenge Tour back in 1996 but had to wait until the opening event of the 2002 season, the Sameer Kenya Open, to prove he could do it again.
Since then James has gone on to win the Clearstream International Luxembourg Open and by adding the Talma Finnish Challenge to his growing list of achievements, he is now €57,774 clear of Frenchman Jean Francois Lucquin at the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings with a total of €118,856 to his name.
James said: “It was a long wait to follow my win in 1996 but after claiming that title in Kenya at the start of the season I decided that my goal was to win the Rankings. A lot of outstanding players have finished Number One and I want to join The European Tour next season by following in the footsteps of players such as Thomas Björn and Warren Bennett.
“It was a really tough struggle against Matt today and I think the key moment came at the 15th when he doubled bogeyed to give me a two stroke lead with three to play. Last year I came to Golf Talma and missed the cut, so it just goes to prove what a strange game golf can be!”
Blackey, a graduate of the Qualifying School in 1999, started the last round on 200, 16 under par, one clear of James. Despite a double bogey at the second, he birdied the next three holes to move to 17 under par and two clear of his nearest rival.
Birdies at the ninth and tenth enabled James to draw level and battle was joined. Both players matched each other’s birdies at the 13th and 14th and they reached the par three 15th locked together on 19 under par. However Blackey found sand with his tee shot and overshot the green with his next and ran up a five to James’s three.
Even then the drama wasn’t over. James bogeyed the 16th to allow Blackey a glimmer of hope, but that was extinguished at the next when James sent a glorious wedge to four feet for a birdie three to set the seal on a fine day’s work.