The FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge came to a tension packed close as Frenchman Olivier David defeated England’s Iain Pyman with a brilliant birdie at the second hole of a thrilling sudden-death play-off to take the €20,000 first prize at the Vale Hotel and Spa Resort.
Both players finished the regulation 72 holes in level par 292, with David carding an excellent fourth round of three under par 70, and Pyman dropping four shots with a final round 77 to ensure that the tournament would go into extra holes.
The Vale’s notoriously tough 18th was determined as the play-off hole, and both players reflected the tense atmosphere with tentative tee shots into the left hand rough as the shoot-out got underway.
David was first to play his approach to the green, and he produced an excellent punch to around 20 feet, before Pyman pulled his approach to the left hand side of the putting surface, his ball coming to rest 40 feet from the cup on the fringe of the green. The Englishman then struck an excellent putt that shaved the hole for a birdie three, leaving David a chance at glory that went agonisingly close.
The Frenchman did not have long to wait before he would get another chance to sew up the title, and he took it in fine style with an outstanding birdie three at the 18th after Pyman could only make bogey.
“I’m delighted to have won,” said David, who dedicated his maiden Challenge Tour victory to his two and a half month old baby son, Alexis. “I would have been happy to take second place to be honest, but to win the play-off is amazing and means so much to me and my family.”
David also heaped praise upon his Welsh caddie, Vale Member David Lamb, who played with the Frenchman in last Wednesday’s Pro-Am and struck an agreement to carry his bag for the tournament.
Pyman, meanwhile, was naturally disappointed but remained philosophical in defeat. The 32 year old has won five times on the Challenge Tour, twice winning a European Tour card through the Challenge Tour Rankings, and is confident that he can repeat those successes in 2005.
“Obviously it was a disappointment not to win today, but I played terribly to be honest while Olivier put in a great round of golf and then birdied the second play-off hole so you have to say that he deserved it today.
"I’ll look at this week as the start of my season now. I am usually the type of player who starts the season slowly and then finishes strongly at the end of the year, so it is good to have finished second early on in the year. I am determined to get back on Tour through the Challenge Tour and, having done it twice before, I know what you have to do to get there.”
David and Pyman finished one stroke ahead of Australia’s John Wade, with Englishman Benn Barham in fourth place – one stroke clear of Germany’s Richard Porter and Toni Karjalainen of Finland.