Alvaro Velasco ended a Spanish drought as he sprinkled six birdies into a closing round of 65 to become the first home winner of the Fred Olsen Challenge de España in 11 years.
The Spaniard surged through the field to finish on 18 under par 266, two strokes clear of overnight leader Eliot Saltman, who signed for a final round 69 in second place.
Velasco was bogey free in his final round at Tecina Golf, La Gomera, to as he gave the home support only their second winner of the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana after Carl Suneson in 1999.
It is Velasco’s first victory on the European Challenge Tour, beating his previous best of a tied second at the 2007 Open Mahou de Madrid. He also becomes the sixth first time Challenge Tour winner of the season.
He said: “It was a fantastic round and I played very solid from tee to green. I stayed concentrated and I knew exactly what I needed to do to win. I have had many second place finishes and have stayed patient and I guess it is better late than never.
“It is always great to play in your home country and to have your first win there as well is even more special. I have learned a lot since turning professional and now feel comfortable playing the Tour and am starting to compete very well.
Velasco will now hope to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Rhys Davies who has gone on to be a huge hit on The European Tour.
He said: “It is great to win the Challenge de España seeing as last year’s winner has achieved so much. You think why not me? I will definitely try to follow in Rhys’ footsteps and those of every other winner of this tournament who has gone on to play on Tour.”
No one could argue that Velasco didn’t fight hard for the victory, as Saltman pushed him all the way in an effort to claim his own maiden title.
After the third round, Saltman believed that two or three under would be enough on Sunday – something that he achieved courtesy of five birdies and three bogeys – however Velescao proved just too hot.
Scotsman Saltman will hope that his performance proves a stepping stone to further success this season having smashes his best Challenge Tour finish – tied 21st in the 2008 Reale Challenge de Espana and the 2009 SWALEC Wales Challenge
He said: “Obviously I am sad, but I played very well for three days and if someone had told me at the start of the week I’d finish second I would not have believed it. I’m pleased for Alvaro, he played great and this week I proved my golf is good enough to contend and my mental side is also working well.
“Now I’ll be turning my attention to Open Championship qualifying on Tuesday as me and my brother Lloyd try to qualify for the second year running. We were the first brothers to qualify last year and it would be fantastic if we could do it again. I will be taking a lot of positives from this week.”
Dutchman Floris de Vries, winner of the Mugello Tuscany Open last month, posted a 67 to finish third on 15 under par. Mark Laskey of Wales was a further shot back following a 68 while English pair Jamie Little and Jamie Moul shared fifth place with George Murray of Scotland.
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