England’s James Hepworth claimed his maiden victory on the European Challenge Tour when he came from behind to win the American Express Los Encinos Open at the Los Encinos Golf Club in Mexico.
The 27 year old from Harrogate started the final round in share of fourth place but an excellent 66, in the third of three joint sanctioned events with the Tour de las Americas, saw him leapfrog the overnight leaders to claim the €16,665 (£11,053) first prize and move to third on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
In the end, Hepworth finished on 13 under par 275, three shots clear of Italy’s Francesco Guermani, Mexico’s Jose Trauwitz and fellow Englishman Sam Walker, who held the 54 hole lead but who slipped back with a closing level par 72.
“It will not come as a great surprise to hear that I am delighted, especially as I did not lose my nerve coming down the stretch,” said Hepworth. “I played well all the way and it was a great experience.”
Birdies at the third, seventh and ninth saw Hepworth make his intentions clear and he surged clear with further birdies at the 11th and 12th, the latter a superb curling putt from 30 feet.
Five matches ahead, Guermani posted the clubhouse target at ten under par 278 but, with Hepworth two shots clear with five to play, his destiny lay in his own hands and he was equal to the task over the closing holes.
The last chance Walker had of victory disappeared when he bogeyed the 395 yard 17th before Hepworth made a crucial par saving putt from 18 feet at the same hole. Moments later a pitch and putt for birdie four at the long 18th, sealed his three shot victory.
Best round of the final day came from another Englishman, Stuart Little, who set a new course record 63 to finish tied for fifth on nine under par 279, with fellow countryman Richard McEvoy and Argentina’s Mauricio Molina.
Tournament Director José Maria Zamora, said: “From our point of view the three tournaments in central America have been a complete success. We are absolutely delighted with the way things have been run, the quality of the venues and the high standard of the players in the region.”