Taco Remkes of The Netherlands became the first Challenge Tour player on this season’s Schedule to claim three titles when he secured a dramatic play-off victory over Finland’s Roope Kakko at the inaugural Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open.
Having reached the turn in one under par after a birdie at the seventh hole, and with most of his nearest rivals struggling to acclimatise to the cool conditions at Margara Golf Club in Italy, Remkes seemed to be cruising to victory.
But the Dutchman’s lead soon disappeared after three successive bogeys from the 15th hole coincided with a resurgence from Kakko, meaning the Finn held a one shot advantage coming down the last.
Both men found the fairway off the tee and hit their approach shots to around 12 feet, but when Remkes holed his putt and Kakko’s slid by, the duo return to the 18th tee for a sudden death play-off having finished level on 18 under par.
When at the first extra hole again made a birdie from around eight feet after his playing partner had found a greenside bunker, the title belonged to the Dutchman.
Following earlier victories in Scotland and his native Holland, it was a third title of the season for the Challenge Tour rookie.
Perhaps more importantly his winner’s cheque for €25,600 moved Remkes to second in the Rankings behind England’s David Horsey, who finished in a tie for fourth with Wales’ Liam Bond on 16 under par, with Christian Nilsson one shot ahead in third.
The Dutchman now goes into next week’s final event, the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, knowing a fourth victory of the season would guarantee him the Number One spot.
Remkes said: “To win the Challenge Tour would be a great finish to what has been a pretty special season. My first victory was great because it confirmed I was a winner, and obviously my win in Holland was special, but this was probably the most dramatic of the three. I’m just so pleased it’s over, because I didn’t play very well.
“Even though I wasn’t striking the ball very well I was still fine on the front nine, but then it all started going wrong on the back nine. Luckily something clicked into place again on the 18th – in a funny way knowing I had to make birdie probably helped, because it sharpened my mind. Then when the putt dropped I thought I would win the play-off, because it gave me such confidence.”
Bond’s round of 71 ensured the Welshman grabbed the last remaining place at next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, whilst Nilsson moved into the top 15 in the Rankings after his round of 70.