A brilliant eagle handed Englishman Sam Little the European Challenge Tour’s Texbond Open yesterday as he completed a stunning 19 under par 269 total with a final round 66 at the Gardagolf Country Club.
Respectively one and two shots ahead of his playing partners Massimo Scarpa and Henrik Nystrom on the par five 16th tee, Little produced a fantastic eagle three to render Scarpa’s birdie four irrelevant, and give the 29 year old Londoner a two shot cushion with two holes to play.
That allowed him to ease home to the second Challenge Tour win of his career – but his three shot winning cushion was not as easily achieved as it looked.
Little was one behind Scarpa on the eighth before gutsy back to back birdies on 11 and 12 gave him a one shot advantage ahead of his title clinching eagle on the 16th, which was the result of a great drive followed by a sublime 4 iron from 222 yard to within six feet of the pin.
“The eagle really sealed off a fantastic round for me,” said Little. “I ended up winning by three shots but it felt a lot closer than that. I was one behind on the eighth and managed to get a couple of birdies in a row to take the lead.
“When we got to 16, the three of us had all hit perfect drives down the middle of the fairway, so there was a fair bit of pressure on to at least make birdie and keep the one shot lead over Massimo.
“I was 222 yards from the flag and I hit a brilliant shot – a four iron to about six feet and rolled in the putt for an eagle.”
The €17,600 top prize propels Little into tenth position on the Challenge Tour Rankings and is the second Challenge Tour win of his career, following his first victory at the 2001 Formby Hall Challenge.
His win is all the more satisfying after being frustrated by his recent form. Before the Texbond open, little had missed his last three cuts and had been cursed with some terrible fortune on the greens.
That all changed at Gardagolf where he opened the tournament with a one under par 71 before storming to the title with three magnificent rounds (65-67-65).
“It feels really good to have won on the Challenge Tour again,” said Little. “It has been a long time coming after winning at Formby Hall three years ago – I just hope I can stay in the top 15 come the end of the season.”
Italy’s Scarpa and Nystrom of Sweden shared second place on 16 under 272, with Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg and Englishman Shaun P Webster sharing fourth place on 15 under.