England’s Matthew Baldwin captured his debut Challenge Tour title after overcoming Frenchman Julien Guerrier in a tense play-off at the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
The 25 year old – who hails from Southport, the same town as current Rankings leader Tommy Fleetwood – kept his cool in the searing heat of the Canary Islands to see off Guerrier with a par at the third extra hole, after both players had finished on 21 under par at Tecina Golf, in La Gomera.
Baldwin’s victory secured him a maiden campaign on The European Tour next season after the €24,000 winner’s cheque catapulted him to seventh place in the Challenge Tour Rankings.
Baldwin had started the day one shot behind Lloyd Kennedy, but soon overtook his compatriot with birdies at the third, seventh and ninth holes to turn in 33. His only bogey of the day, at the long par three 14th hole, briefly checked his momentum. But he rallied with a birdie at the 17th hole, and sunk a ten footer for par on the last to sign for a round of 68 and join Guerrier on 21 under par.
Both men made steady pars at the first two play-off holes, but after Guerrier had flown the green with his approach shot on the third extra hole and lipped out with his par putt, Baldwin was left with two putts from 15 feet to secure his maiden victory.
He said: “This feels great, I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s been a tough day, but I’m delighted with how it’s finished. I started holing some really good putts at the beginning of my round, then they stopped dropping and I thought I might have missed my chance. But I holed a great putt for birdie on the 17th green, and another great one for par on the 18th to get me into the play-off.
“The play-off was obviously fairly nerve-wracking, but I’m just so pleased I managed to hold my nerve and come through it. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the winning the tournament, or getting my European Tour card for next season. I can’t wait to get out there now.”
Guerrier was pleased to have shot the joint lowest round of the day, a flawless 65, but disappointed to have missed out on the chance of securing his debut win.
The Frenchman, who climbed to 36th in the Challenge Tour Rankings, said: “At the beginning of the round I was short of confidence, but after I made some birdies my confidence started to grow again. I also holed a great putt for par on the 14th hole, which was very important for my momentum.
“Last week in Toulouse I spoke with Jean Van de Velde about how you can win a tournament in the last six holes, and even though I didn’t manage to win in the end, I was still very pleased with how I played down the stretch.
“I’m upset with a really short putt I missed in my second round, because that made all the difference in the end. But this result has still given me a lot of confidence, and hopefully I can use it to get back onto The European Tour now.”
Kennedy (70), Belgium’s Pierre Relecom (67) and Italian Alessandro Tadini (68) all finished in a share of third place on 20 under par.