On a day of intense drama at the Donnington Grove Country Club, England’s Mathew King secured his place among the European Challenge Tour’s elite with a brilliant victory at the Donnington Grove Computacenter English Challenge Open to guarantee himself a seat at European golf’s top table on The 2005 European Tour.
The 29 year old posted a final round 69 to win by three shots from Irishman David Higgins and take his second Challenge Tour title of the season to move to fourth on the Rankings with accumulated earnings of €72,203.
Beside King’s excellent victory – which made him the fourth multiple winner of the 2004 Challenge Tour season – there was an agonising wait for those players looking to make it to the top 45 on the Rankings in order to guarantee themselves a place at the season ending Bouygues Telecom Grand Final next weekend.
Higgins completed a remarkable three week spell on the Challenge Tour by posting sensational final round of seven under par 65 to claim the last spot at the Bouygues Telecom Grand Final and resurrect his hopes of a return to The European Tour.
The Irishman edged out David Griffiths by just €134, leaving the Englishman wondering what might have been, while Sweden’s Oskar Bergman finished third at the Donnington Grove Country Club to jump from 49th place to 32nd on the Rankings.
It was only four weeks ago that Higgins was outside the Challenge Tour’s top 100 and had just failed to qualify at Stage One of The European Tour Qualifying School. Higgins was questioning where he was going to play next season, but, after his brilliant finish at the Donnington Grove Country Club, which secured him a cheque for €12,100, Higgins sneaked into 45th place
With a top prize of €34,250 on offer at the Golf du Médoc next weekend, Higgins can break into the top 15 with a victory in Bordeaux and repeat his Challenge Tour success of four years ago when he graduated to the Tour in second on the Rankings after winning three times in the year 2000.
The 32 year old has played his some stunning golf over the past three weeks to score two fifth place finishes at the Estoril Challenge Open Portugal Telecom and the Attijari Wafa – Tikida Beach Moroccan Classic on top of yesterday’s second place behind King.
“It’s been an unbelievable few weeks,” smiled Higgins, who made the top 45 by just €134 from England’s David Griffiths. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after missing at Stage One, and now I have the chance to get my Card at the Grand Final.
“I’m up for it now as well and I have to be looking to win in France – I’m playing well enough to do it as well.”
England’s Richard Bland finished fourth to move to 12th on the Rankings with €55,822 and looks to have secured his own return to The European Tour by doing so. “I’m almost certain that I am safe now,” said Bland, who won the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Bordeaux three years ago. “It would take a bit of a miracle to knock me out of the top 15, and it will be nice to go to the Grand Final with a bit of pressure off my shoulders. Now I am looking to win it again and try and finish as high as possible within the top 15.”
Bland was clearly delighted with his fourth place finish, but the day belonged to King, who became the 12th Englishman to win on the 2004 Challenge Tour.
“I’ve not had much time to think about it but I am delighted,” said King, who won €17,600. “This is why we are all playing on the Challenge Tour, and to secure a place on The European Tour for next season is brilliant.
“I learnt a lot from my first Challenge Tour win at the Skandia PGA Open in Sweden and I think that helped me through today. I released that I was three shots clear with a couple of holes to play and was able to relax coming down the last two holes.”