American Christopher Ryan Baker became only the tenth player in history to win on his Challenge Tour debut when he captured the Moroccan Golf Classic title by two strokes.
A closing round of 68 for a winning 13 under par aggregate score saw Baker join the exclusive club, which includes such luminaries as Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, South African Trevor Immelman, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Italian Edoardo Molinari.
Baker had started the day two shots off the lead held by Jesus Maria Arruti, but four birdies in an immaculate round of golf at Pullman Mazagan Royal Golf and Spa in El Jadida, Morocco, were good enough to take the title by two shots from the Spaniard, who had to settle for a share of second place alongside Argentine Julio Zapata.
The 21 year old, who becomes the first American winner on the Challenge Tour since Kevin Stadler won – also on his debut – in Argentina in 2006, must now decide whether or not to accept the one-year exemption offered to all winners on the Challenge Tour.
Baker, who received a winner’s cheque for €24,000 winner’s, said: “I couldn’t feel any happier than I do right now – winning’s a great feeling, especially on my Challenge Tour debut. It’s a great Tour with a lot of very good players out here, so I’m very proud of myself. I wasn’t pleased with how I played yesterday, but today was much more like it. I struck the ball really well, and only missed one green all day.
“My second shot to the 16th hole was probably the turning point today. I hit a three iron to six inches, and that birdie gave me some breathing space coming down the last two holes. I still felt a little nervous and pushed my tee shots on the 17th and 18th out to the right, but managed to recover well and get the job done.
“There are 11 of us over from the States this week, so I’m sure we’ll have a few drinks to celebrate tonight. Then I’ll have to sit down and decide what to do next. I might play in Spain next week, then after that, who knows? As I said the Challenge Tour is a great Tour, so it’s very tempting. I might decide after a few beers tonight!”
A round of 65 – the lowest of the day – saw England’s Matthew Baldwin surge through the field to take a share of fourth place on ten under par with Dutchman Richard Kind, who signed for a round of 70.
|1||BAKER, Christopher Ryan||USA||18||-13|
|T2||DEL GROSSO, Pablo||ARG||18||-11|
|T2||ARRUTI, Jesus Maria||ESP||18||-11|