Nicolas Meitinger is coached by the same man who guided Martin Kaymer to the top of the World Ranking, and he now has his name on the same trophy after winning the Allianz Challenge de France.
Kaymer won the event in 2006, and Meitinger will hope his career path takes a similar trajectory to that of the current World Number Two after overcoming his compatriot Max Kieffer in a dramatic sudden-death play-off at Golf Disneyland, near the French capital Paris.
Meitinger was recently reunited with Günther Kessler, and he paid tribute to his coach, his first-time caddie and the new broomstick putter which served him so well this week after seeing off Kieffer, whose approach shot found the water at the second extra hole.
The 27 year old from Cologne has won six times on the Satellite EPD Tour, the same Tour where Kaymer started his professional career, but his previous best performance on the Challenge Tour was a tie for fourth place at the recent Abierto Internacional Copa Antioquia.
After a round of 68 saw Meitinger join Kieffer on top of the leaderboard on 15 under par, the duo returned to the 18th hole, which they both promptly birdied.
But after Kieffer’s eight iron approach met a watery grave and Meitinger had found the heart of the green, he was left with the relatively straightforward task of getting down in two from 15 feet for a birdie which earned him €24,000 and moved him to the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings on €33,031.
Meitinger, who becomes the fourth first-time winner on the 2011 Challenge Tour Schedule, is now targeting a place on The European Tour alongside Kaymer.
He said: “It’s been a great week, and I have to thank my new caddie Chris, my coach Günther and most of all my broomstick putter, because she was very good to me all week. I only had one three-putt all week, and even though it’s still bugging me a bit now, I’m sure I’ll get over it pretty quickly! Günther suggested I try it, and I think I’ll be using it for a while now. Maybe if I had the broomstick from the start of the season, I would’ve been out of sight by now!
“Obviously I was proud of my wins on the EPD Tour, but winning on the Challenge Tour is a whole new level. To win the same Challenge Tour event as Martin makes it extra special, and hopefully now I can start catching him up a little bit. I felt a bit sorry for Max with how it ended for him, but he’s only young so I need the money more than him! And I’m sure he’ll have many good days in the future, because he’s a great player.
“I’m going to enjoy the moment, hopefully have a bit of a celebration and then get back to business. Winning early in the season gives me a great chance of getting my card, and now I’m up there I want to stay there.”
Kieffer, whose stunning round of 64 was the lowest of the day, was naturally disappointed with his runner-up finish, but graciously paid tribute to the winner.
He said: “Nicolas played great golf this week, so he deserved to win. So I’m pleased for him, but obviously disappointed for myself, because to hit my eight iron into the water was a bad mistake. Hopefully I can learn from this experience, so that next time I get in a position to win, I can finish it off.”
Kieffer’s playing partner Sam Little finished in third place on 14 under par after closing with a superb round of 65.
The Englishman said: “I played really well today, and it was nice to get myself in contention and get the competitive juices flowing again. I was disappointed not to give myself a chance at the last after I hit a poor tee shot, but I can’t be too down on myself. It was great playing with Max, because we really spurred each other on. Sometimes when you playing really well and your partner’s struggling, it’s maybe harder to keep it going; but it was a battle between us today, and I really enjoyed it. Obviously I would’ve loved to have won, but I gave it my best shot and came up just short.”