The European Challenge Tour Grand Final reached a fitting climax at Golf du Médoc in Bordeaux with a stunning play-off between José Manuel Carriles and Johan Edfors, with Carriles producing a wonderful seven iron approach to the first sudden-death hole to snatch victory and the €25,600 first prize.
That was enough to propel the Spaniard into third place on the final Challenge Tour Rankings for the season – with Edfors taking the crown of Challenge Tour Champion after his second place prize gave him an accumulated total of €94,509 and made him Number One for 2003.
Carriles and Edfors both finished the four rounds at Golf du Médoc on 11 under par 273, with Jamie Elson in third on nine under par – which was enough to put the 22 year old Englishman into tenth place on the Rankings after joining the Challenge Tour only five months ago.
Edfors took the Challenge Tour Number One Spot courtesy of his two victories in the Stanbic Zambian Open and the Fortis Bank Challenge Open, as well as his other seven top ten finishes.
He may have been disappointed at losing out in the play-off for the Grand Final’s top prize, but his bad feeling lasted only a few minutes before he was presented with his trophy for winning the Rankings – as well as a fantastic Rolex watch, courtesy of the world’s best known watch manufacturers.
“I was a little disappointed with losing the play-off today, but winning the Challenge Tour Rankings means a lot more to me and I’m really, really happy right now – I just can’t really describe it properly. I think it will take a while for me to realize what I have achieved.
“It has been a brilliant season for me, and now I can look forward to taking a long holiday before getting ready to play on The European Tour next season – which has always been my goal.”
Edfors began the last round with a four shot lead, but was pegged back by Carriles – who shot a brilliant last round 66 to force the sudden-death shoot out.
“I found it tough off the tee today,” said Edfors. “I started on the first by hitting my first shot into the bushes on the left, then my second off the tee went into the bushes on the left! I hit a third ball off the tee, but, luckily, I found the first one and managed to play a great shot out of the bushes.
“But José Manuel played so well today and just kept coming at me. Jamie Elson was in great form too so it was a great game to be playing in.”
Carriles’s win was his first European Challenge Tour victory and his seventh top ten finish of the season. He is only the second player from Spain to win the Challenge Tour Grand Final behind Francis Valera back in 1995.
This is the second consecutive Spanish win on the European Challenge Tour, following the victory by Miguel Angel Jiménez at the dual ranking Turespaña Mallorca Classic and the fourth in total in 2003 to go alongside Ivo Giner’s two victories at the Open des Volcans and the Terme Euganee International Open Padova.
The Spaniard was naturally delighted with his triumph and is now looking forward to joining his old friend Jiménez on The European Tour International Schedule 2004. Carriles has played four seasons on The Tour in his career, and hopes that he will have learned from his past mistakes to emerge as a force among some of the best players in the world.
He joined the Challenge Tour courtesy of his second place finish at the Izki Challenge de Espana and did not look back – finishing second at the Izki Golf, Urturi, Vittoria, and then racking up further top ten finishes at the Fortis Bank Challenge Open (fifth), the Galeria Kaufhof Pokal Challenge (sixth), the Open des Volcans (fifth), the dual ranking BMW Russian Open (fourth), the Rolex Trophy (third) before his victory at the Grand Final in Bordeaux.
“This has been an unbelievable year for me,” he said. “Before the Izki Challenge de Espana I was just thinking about playing in Spain for the season and taking some good form to the Tour School at the end of the year, so to finish third on the Challenge Tour rankings is fantasic.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the European Tour. I played there between 1992 and 1995 – and then again in 2000 – so it will be great to play there again. Hopefully I can take my experience from those years and use it well.
“Plus, it will be great to play with Miguel Angel Jiménez again because we were very close friends on The European Tour.”
Carriles and Edfors two will join 13 others on The European Tour next year after what has been a thrilling season.
Not player dropped out of the top 15 at the Grand Final, but the tension and emotion on display in Bordeaux had built up throughout the week – climaxing with Ben Mason of England producing a brilliant performance to hold onto the 15th place on the Rankings as he finished in a four way tie for eighth place on four under par.
That was enough to hold off the challenge of Cesar Monasterio and Greig Hutcheon who respectively finished 16th and 17th on the Order of Merit.