Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka was celebrating his first professional victory just six days after joining the paid ranks after a wire-to-wire victory in the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon.
The 22 year old, who last week was playing for the French team in the European Amateur Team Championships in Wales, shot a final round three under par 68 to finish on 16 under par 268 at Golf du Gouverneur, one clear of playing partner Anders Schmidt Hansen.
It was quite a debut for the young man from Orleans, Paris, as becomes only the seventh player to win on his Challenge Tour debut, a select group that includes, most recently, Edoardo Molinari and Martin Kaymer.
“This is a dream,” he said. “It is an unbelievable feeling. I was just trying to play my golf and stick to my routine and stay positive and attack. I just played great golf all week.”
With a maiden title under his belt already, Kaleka can already start thinking about his goal of playing on The European Tour. “If I can win this week, I can win again and then try and get on The European Tour,” he said. “I hope to have this feeling again.”
Kaleka looked to be coasting to victory as he pulled clear of the field with an eagle three on the third and birdie on the fourth. And as Kaleka stepped on the gas, Hansen faltered, dropping a shot on the fifth and compounding his mistake with a double bogey on the sixth.
With nine holes to go it was Kaleka’s to lose and he nearly surrendered his lead as Hansen fought back well. He dropped a shot on the tenth and then went in the water over the back of the 12th green. Memories of another famous Frenchman came to the fore as Kaleka took his shoes and socks off, rolled his trousers up, and proceeded to play the shot. But unlike Jean Van De Velde in The 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie, Kaleka managed to get the ball out and walk away with just a bogey - and a fair splattering of mud.
“If I had taken a drop I would have had a very bad lie so tried to play it,” he explained. “I got a bit messy but it worked out well. It was a good bogey.”
Hansen closed to within a shot with back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th before Kaleka gave himself a two stroke cushion with a birdie on the 15th. That proved enough as even Hansen’s brave birdie on the last for a 69 could not deny the Frenchman.
Kaleka becomes the first Frenchman to win on home soil since Julien Foret in 2006 and the seventh first time winner of the 2009 Challenge Tour season. He was also the second French winner of the year and third wire-to-wire winner.
Hansen played well but ultimately two holes in the middle of the front nine proved his undoing.
“I had some good chances at the beginning when the putter didn’t work and then two bad holes,” he said. “It was difficult to get it back after that. I played well today apart from those two holes where I made a bogey and double bogey. I almost caught him but he holed all the crucial putts today. It was very impressive how he played in his first week as a professional. But I had a good week and this will help me move up the Rankings. Just got to take my good game onto the next week and try and win there instead.”
Remarkably a teammate of Kaleka’s from last week’s European Amateur Team Championship, Victor Dubuisson, claimed a share of third place with England’s Marcus Higley and Austrian Florian Praegant. Dubuisson, however, is likely to remain an amateur until the end of the season.
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