Daan Huizing confirmed his reputation as one of European golf’s hottest talents with a brilliant play-off win over former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge presented by Clannah and XJET.
Having begun the final round with a six shot lead, and having performed magnificently for the first three rounds, the tournament looked to be a forgone conclusion but Huizing struggled in the swirling winds at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, dropping four strokes on the front nine to allow Wilson and a host of other players back into the tournament.
As the leaders reached the turn, Huizing found himself in a four way tie for the lead with Wilson, James Heath, and Jamie McLeary but he rediscovered the smooth rhythm that had served him so well for the first 54 holes to pick up birdies on the 12th and 14th holes to move to clear of the pack.
But the drama was nowhere near over as Wilson birdied the 17th to get within one of Huizing and set the clubhouse target of 13 under par, with McLeary and Heath finishing the day on 12 under.
A par five at the last would have been good enough to give Huizing the prize but he lost his drive in the thick rough and was forced to play his provisional ball from the middle of the fair way. Huizing’s fourth shot was 40 yards short of the green leaving him needing an up and down to secure a play-off.
With the adrenaline pumping, and a crowd of over 8,000 people surrounding the 18th, he hit a poor pitch and left himself a 25 foot putt to keep his hopes alive.
“I suppose at that moment I proved how much I really wanted this victory,” said Huizing. “I hit a really good putt and once I had made it I knew I still had a chance.”
A perfect drive at the first extra hole put the Dutchman in pole position as Wilson found the bunker off the tee. But the English played a fine second from the sand, leaving himself 50 yards short of the green in two, while Huizing found the putting surface in two with a fine three wood approach.
Wilson’s chip stopped ten feet short before Huizing rushed his eagle chance eight feet past the hole.
“I was pretty sure that he was going to make his putt so I kind of felt I had to make mine. When he missed I just knew that was the moment for me and thankfully I managed to ignore the shakes and make a good stroke and get the ball on line.
“This has just been an amazing week. The tournament has been great and to play in front of so many people was really cool. Playing in front of crowds like this makes the win even more special, and hopefully I can keep playing well and win a card for The European Tour next year.”
Huizing is certainly in position to do that. His victory, worth €27,500, propelled him to sixth place in the Rankings, with the top 15 players winning European Tour cards at the end of the season.