James Hepworth’s towering third round performance put him in control of his golfing destiny at the European Challenge Tour’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final. The Englishman will take a three shot lead into the final round of the most important event of the season after a three under par 68 knowing that victory will secure him a place on The 2007 European Tour.
Currently 29th on the Challenge Tour Rankings, Hepworth arrived at the San Domenico golf knowing that a top five finish would take him into the all important top 20. Now he stands on the cusp of the ultimate success, that would carry him into the top ten and guarantee him the best possible European Tour Category next season.
He leads his fellow countryman Shaun P Webster by three strokes, with the English pair of James Heath and Lee S James alongside Welshman Mark Pilkington in third place on seven under par.
The fourth round will be a huge day for all of the aforementioned players, with Webster, Heath and James all looking to follow Hepworth into the top ten on the Rankings with strong finishes, while Pilkington can win the highest Challenge Tour honour of them all by topping the season’s final Rankings.
Hepworth was naturally delighted at his current position at the head of the elite 45 man field with just 18 holes to play, especially after a cold, damp and wet third round.
“It was a day for battling through with the weather being so bad and I battled hard and played well so I am very pleased,” said Hepworth.
“I came here at the start of the week thinking that I needed to finish on the top five to get my card for The European Tour so to be going onto the final round with a three shot lead is beyond my expectations.
“I feel pretty relaxed about tomorrow. You just have to go out there and play your normal game as best you can and I have managed to do that pretty well of the first three rounds.
“I have been in this position a few times in my career and blown it but I feel confident going into tomorrow. I have been doing this for ten years now and have got to use the experience of missing out to my advantage. I know what I have to do – now I just have to go out and do it one more time.”
Of all the contenders going into the final round, Hepworth and Pilkington’s situations are the simplest of all. Victory for Hepworth would see him into the top ten, while a strong finish from Pilkington would see him crowned Number One for the season.
Heath, James and Webster meanwhile need strong finishes to move from their respective positions of 17th, 16th and 11th on the Rankings into the top ten, but they will meet strong resistance from the likes of eighth placed Marcus Higley and ninth placed Sam Walker, who are tied in sixth position on six under par at San Domenico.
One thing is for sure amidst this potential mathematical minefield – it will be a thrilling final day to yet another fascinating Challenge Tour season.