Less than six months after he came closing to quitting the game altogether, Australian Andrew Tampion collected his second Challenge Tour title at the Telenet Trophy.
Having earned less than €10,000 after making just four cuts on The European Tour last season, Tampion returned to his native Melbourne, packed his clubs away in the garage for three months, and instead turned his hand to the building trade to try to make ends meet.
But the decision to return to Europe last month and give his career one last shot paid handsome dividends when he closed with a stunning round of 66 to prevail by one stroke at Royal Waterloo Golf Club, on the outskirts of the Belgian capital Brussels.
Tampion started the day five shots off the pacesetters, but blitzed through the field with eight birdies to set the clubhouse target on eight under par.
With joint overnight leaders Jason Palmer of England and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos both struggling to maintain the sparkling form they had shown on the third day, it was left instead to Oliver Whiteley – who had himself recently taken an extended break from the game – to mount the most serious challenge.
But after Whiteley’s birdie putt on the 18th green had rolled agonisingly past the hole, the trophy – and with it a much-needed cheque for €25,600 which moved him to 12th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings – was Tampion’s to cherish.
The 26 year old, who also came from five strokes behind when he won the Challenge of Ireland in 2008, said: “I played pretty well all week, but until today just hadn’t got much out of my rounds. So it’d been a frustrating week, and maybe I was due a decent score today. I just went out there with the mindset of trying to give myself as many chances as possible, and it wasn’t until I’d walked off the 18th green that it dawned on me that I might actually win the tournament. Even then, I didn’t think eight under was going to be enough to win, but I’m obviously delighted it was.
“I had very low expectations coming into the week, so nobody’s more surprised than I am. Last season was pretty tough, to say the least. I missed a few cuts in a row, and my confidence was just shot to pieces. I didn’t really want to play the game any more, and for the first three months of the year I didn’t actually touch a club. I went and did some building work with a few friends, and I really enjoyed it. It was nice to sleep in my own bed every night and pick up a regular cheque. But some friends and family persuaded me to give the game one last go, and I’m pretty pleased that I did.”
Whiteley also exceeded his own expectations with a runner-up finish on his first competitive outing for six months.
The Englishman, who closed with a round of 71, said: “Finishing with two pars was slightly annoying because I’ve finished birdie-birdie for the last two days, although I holed a good par putt on the 17th. It was only from three feet, but when you haven’t earned anything for a while and could do with the money, the knees were starting to knock a little bit.
“I thought my birdie putt on the last was in, but it just fell away at the last minute. But if anything that probably made it a bit easier to take, because if I’d hit a poor putt it might’ve left a sour taste in the mouth. So overall I’ve got to be delighted with how I’ve played after six months off, because if you’d offered me second place at the start of the week, I would’ve definitely taken it.”
The French duo of Christophe Brazillier (71) and Baptiste Chapellan (65), and the Portuguese pair of José-Filipe Lima (72) and Santos (73) finished in a tie for third place on six under par.