Andreas Hartø hailed “the greatest day of my life” after birdieing the final hole to become only the fourth amateur to win on the European Challenge Tour.
The 22 year Dane displayed all the courage and determination of a seasoned Tour professional to smash a three iron 222 yards onto the final green to capture the ECCO Tour Championship by one shot from Sweden’s Oscar Floren.
He now follows Francis Valera (1993), Eric Carlberg (1994) and Roope Kakko (2004) as the only amateurs to succeed on the Challenge Tour – and he had to play a couple of vintage strokes to get there.
Hartø’s modest fourth round score of 74, one over par, secured the title with an eight under par total of 284 over one of Europe’s longest golf courses. However it was enough to spark joyous scenes of celebration on the 18th green after the 6ft 4in amateur sank a nasty four footer for victory.
The new champion sank to his knees in a mixture of elation and relief and was smothered by his father, Kasper, and the Danish national coach, Anders Christiansen, as the enormity of his achievement slowly sank in.
Just getting down in two putts from 60 feet was a remarkable feat in itself and Hartø exclaimed: “You have no idea how badly my knees were shaking over that final putt. I’ve won the amateur championships of Denmark and Wales in the past, but this win beats those by a considerable distance.
“This is without doubt the greatest day of my life and it feels crazy. I can’t believe it. It was so great that my dad managed to get here to watch the final day and when I spoke to my sister on the phone I was burst into tears. This is all just amazing.”
Although the golf was not always electrifying – Floren finished runner-up with a two over par 75 for 285 and Australian Matthew Zions third a further stroke behind after closing with a 72.
Hartø is the second Dane to win this season, following Thorbjørn Olesen at The Princess in Sweden earlier in the season and the 11th first-time winner on the Challenge Tour.
As the battle at the top of the leaderboard intensified during the afternoon, Hartø delivered the hardest blows when it counted, firing a three iron onto the green at the par three 14th and draining the 40 foot putt for a birdie two.
A birdie four at the 15th for Floren coupled with a dropped shot for Hartø, who put his second shot into the water and made a bogey, saw both players approach the final hole level on seven under par.
While Floren elected to play safe with a three iron off the tee, Hartø displayed the impetuosity of youth by taking a driver and hitting his three iron second shot to the right side of the green. He added: “I had my heart in my mouth when the ball was in the air but when the crowd started to clap, I could breath again.”
Compensation for Floren – runner-up for the second time this season – came in the form of first place money of €28,800 with the new champion, as an amateur, unable to accept the winner’s cheque. That prize hoisted Floren to fourth on the Challenge Tour Rankings behind Robert Dinwiddie, Floris De Vries and Olesen, with a European Tour card for 2011 all by achieved.
The Swede admitted: “I am disappointed to have come so close again, but it was one of those days when I couldn’t really get going. I felt a bit stressed out there and it was unfortunate at the last that my second shot went into a divot and I didn’t have a chance to get close to the pin in three. However good luck to Andreas for winning the a birdie.”
Zions, who took the brave route at the last, was rewarded with a two putt birdie from long range to finish in third place and his cheque for €19,800 moved him into sixth place on the Rankings.