Sunday, 15 July 2012
Gary Stal, 2012 Credit Suisse Challenge champion (Maria Schmid/freshfocus) ()
Gary Stal, 2012 Credit Suisse Challenge champion (Maria Schmid/freshfocus) ()

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Gary Stal confirmed his status as one of the hottest prospects in European golf after the 20 year old Frenchman claimed his second Challenge Tour title in as many months at the Credit Suisse Challenge, beating compatriot Alexandre Kaleka in a play-off.

In a dramatic finale at Golf Sempachersee, outside Lucerne, Kaleka made a late charge thanks to three birdies on the back nine in windy conditions and his par on the 18th meant Stal needed a birdie to win in regular play.

The young man from Lyon left himself with a difficult putt for par, after his approach short at the front of the green and his birdie putt stopped six feet from the hole, but he showed nerves of steel to sink it and finish on 11 under par, tied with Kaleka.

He topped that off by showing true grit on the first play-off hole. After his second shot landed short of the second tier upon which the pin was placed, Stal left himself an extremely tough putt to win. But, following Kaleka’s missed birdie chance, he rolled it over the ridge and straight into the centre of the cup to rapturous cheers from the watching crowds.

“It’s incredible to win again,” said Stal. “To win in a play-off, it feels like a much bigger deal and I am just so happy.
“I was a little bit nervous for my second putt at the 18th to take it to a play-off so it was very pleasing to putt it. I just set my mind on the play-off after that and just wanted to give it my all.”

In his first season on the European Challenge Tour, Stal claimed his maiden win as an invite at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda in Austria a month ago after a nerveless display in a final group battle with England’s Daniel Brooks.

Once again, he was in a pressure cooker situation in Switzerland and the Lyon man defied his years by showing consummate composure, saying afterwards that he thrives on it.

“I like playing in these kinds of situations,” he said. “I like the pressure, I really enjoy it. It’s more difficult to manage but that’s the nature of pressure and I'm just happy to have won this time out.”

It was a tentative start to the day from all three overnight leaders and Stal began with eight consecutive birdies but neither Italian Andrea Perrino nor Janne Mommo of Finland could take advantage and a birdie at the ninth put the young Frenchman out in front.

With Mommo dropping a shot at the 15th to go one over and Perrino suffering a triple bogey at the 11th hole, the co-leaders going into the final round dropped out of contention but Kaleka duly filled the void.

When the 25 year old bogeyed the third hole, he seemed to be out of the race but a birdie at the par five seventh took him to the turn on level par before he gained shots at the tenth, 14th and 17th to force the play-off, which he disappointed to lose. In the end though, he was happy with his week.

“I didn’t see the leaderboard coming down the stretch,” said Kaleka, who won on his professional debut in the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon in 2009. “I just wanted to birdie the 17th and 18th and I did so on the 17th but not the last hole.

“There are no regrets today though. I felt good in the play-off but my tee shot was in the rough and I pushed the eight iron a little and it was a tough putt so I just tried to hole it because it was a play-off and you don’t want to be short in a play-off.

“Gary hit a really nice putt at the end and there’s nothing you can do about that. He’s a nice guy and he’s a good player so I think he will probably win another time this year."

Andrea Perrino’s one over par 72 was enough to seal outright third place while Andreas Hartø rallied to a three under par 68 to finish tied fourth alongside Mommo, who finished with a two over par 73.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1STAL, GaryFRA18-11
2KALEKA, AlexandreFRA18-11
3PERRINO, AndreaITA18-9
T4HARTØ, AndreasDEN18-8
T4MOMMO, JanneFIN18-8
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