Frenchman Gary Stal emerged victorious at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda after an epic final round duel with England’s Daniel Brooks.
The two main protagonists in a thrilling battle went head to head in the final group of the day at the Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim, with Stal eventually putting the seal on his maiden Challenge Tour victory with a tap-in par on the 18th green.
Stal’s final round 68 helped the Frenchman to a 20 under par winning total, one better than Brooks who pushed his rival every inch of the way to the finishing line.
It was a truly fascinating last match as Stal and Brooks traded blows throughout the afternoon as they pulled away from the chasing pack to reduce the tournament to a toe to toe battle.
Starting the day tied on 16 under, Stal landed the first blow of the day with a birdie at the first before Brooks hit back immediately on the second green. Stal landed another birdie blow on the third before his first and only bogey of the day on the sixth brought Brooks level again.
Sensing his chance, the Englishman moved ahead of the field on the next hole, but back to back bogeys before the turn handed the initiative back to Stal, who then went two clear with a fine birdie on the 11th.
As the two leaders slugged it out at the top of the leaderboard, they would not have noticed the chasing pack’s best attempts to reel them in, with the marauding Justin Walters of South Africa matching the Klagenfurt-Seltenheim course record with a brilliant 63 to charge through the field alongside playing partner Michael Lorenzo-Vera.
The South African and the Frenchman, who carded an eight under 64, would eventually take third and fourth places (alongside the English duo of Tyrrell Hatton and Gary Lockerbie), but the focus returned to the last match of the day as they entered the final stretch of the tournament.
Birdies on 13 for both men kept Stal’s advantage to two shots, but Brooks closed the gap at the next hole before what looked to be the decisive moment on the 16th. Stal made a brilliant birdie, and, with Brooks dropping a shot, looked home and dry as he walked onto the par five 17th tee with a three shot advantage.
The tournament was far from over, however, as Brooks produced a moment of magic to hole out from 50 metres for eagle. Stal’s par five meant his three shot lead was now one playing the last, but the Frenchman held his nerve to claim a momentous victory and a significant cheque for €25,600 that propelled him from 108th to seventh on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
“What a day!” smiled Stal after collecting the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda. “That was a great final round and it feels so good to win my first Challenge Tour event.
“I thought when there was the two shot swing on the 16th that I was almost safe but then I couldn’t believe it when Daniel holed out on the 17th for eagle. I should have known it would go all the way, but I was pretty nervous playing the 18th. Thankfully I made the par and it was a great relief.
“It feels special to win, especially the way that I won because I played really well throughout the week so it is very satisfying.”