Edoardo Molinari smashed the Challenge Tour record for earnings in a single season after winning the Kazakhstan Open by three strokes from England’s Chris Gane.
A flawless round of 68 at Zhailjau Golf Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he dropped just three shots across the four days, saw the Italian finish on 20 under par, with Gane his nearest challenger after he closed with a round of 67.
Molinari collected the €64,000 winner’s cheque – the biggest payday of his career – to take his season’s earnings to €188,079, which is some €43,961 more than England’s David Horsey accumulated last year.
With four Challenge Tour events still remaining this year Molinari has virtually built an unassailable lead in the Rankings, and he can now start to plan in earnest for another assault on The European Tour next season, when he will again tee up alongside younger brother Francesco.
Molinari, whose victory was his fourth on the Challenge Tour, said: “It’s definitely the biggest win of my professional career, because it opens up a lot of doors for me for next season. After I finished second in Geneva I told my caddy I wanted to play the Grand Final without any pressure, and I don’t think I can be caught in the Rankings now, so it’s a fantastic feeling. I can relax and enjoy myself in my last few events.
“My aim this morning was to get to 20 under par as quickly as possible, and I reached my goal after six holes, which was a bit quicker than I expected! After that I just concentrated on finding the middle of the greens, and although I missed a few times I was never really in too much trouble. When I found a fairway bunker on the last hole, I was desperate to make par because I’ve never had two bogey-free rounds on the weekend before. So I was very happy to find the green and make two putts for par.
“The event was probably the best on this season’s Challenge Tour, not only in terms of the prize money, but also in terms of the organisation and the golf course. All the players enjoyed playing the course and staying in the city – it was just a fantastic week, and I’m so happy to have won.
“I haven’t thought about how I’ll spend the money – maybe I’ll just buy myself a nice Christmas present this year! I’ve been wanting a new car for a while, so maybe I’ll treat myself to one now.”
Gane was also delighted after collecting a runner’s up cheque for €44,000 which saw him climb from 47th to 11th in the Rankings.
The Englishman has a fine track record in Kazakhstan, having finished tied fifth in last year’s event, and he continued his affinity with the country with six birdies and a solitary bogey in his round of 67.
He said: “I’m chuffed to bits. I’ve swung it nicely all week, and I carried that on today when the pressure was on, so I’m really pleased with myself. The boost up the Rankings and the confidence boost I’ll take into the rest of the season is massive – one more good week and I’ve probably pretty much guaranteed my cards. So there’s a bit more to do, but I’ve given myself a massive chance.”
Despite closing with a double bogey New Zealand’s Gareth Paddison shot the lowest round of the day, a 66 which saw him join England’s Gary Boyd – who moves up to fourth in the Rankings – and Sweden’s Peter Gustafsson in a tie for third place on 14 under par.
England’s Andrew Marshall was one shot further back on 13 under par, with Wales’ Sion E Bebb and Frenchman Julien Quesne sharing seventh place on 12 under par.