Thomas Linard fired a superb 64 at Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora to claim a maiden professional title at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge.
Starting two shots behind the leading threesome, the Frenchman raced to the turn in 30 strokes, carding seven birdies in his first ten holes to elevate himself to the top of the board.
A further red figure followed at the 13th, before a bogey two holes later had looked like derailing his title chances. A ninth birdie of the day followed at the 16th though, which saw him finish at 19 under par and a stroke clear of Daniel Gaunt.
This is Linard’s first season on the Challenge Tour, having only claimed a spot on European golf’s second tier by €23 through last year’s Alps Tour Order of Merit. He clearly looks like he belongs though, and while his English was limited, his delight was clear to see.
“I am very happy because I played very good this week,” said the man from Bourges. “It was fantastic, as this is my first professional victory and it is brilliant. I just focused on my game today, and that’s it. I have a flight tonight, but I will celebrate afterwards in Paris.”
England’s Gaunt had led at the end of all three rounds, and entered Sunday with a one stroke lead alongside compatriot Chris Lloyd and Sweden’s Pontus Widegren.
His 68 on the final day would have been enough to take a third Challenge Tour title in normal circumstances, but he was still delighted with his form this week, and believes a victory is just around the corner.
“I played awesome today,” said Gaunt. “It was the best I’ve felt for the four days mentally, but Thomas shot eight under and he deserves to win. It was a good week, and there’s one coming. I will definitely win before the end of the year.
“I’m playing in Austria next week on The European Tour, so now I’ll try and win that as I need to get back out there somehow. I shot 17 under, which equals my best out here when I won, and I wanted to beat that. I was pressing at the last for birdie and dropped a shot, but I can’t complain with second.
“This moves me up the Rankings though, and the higher the better. My game is in good shape, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Ross McGowan reaped the fruits of his recent hard work at home in Dubai, firing a 69 on Sunday to finish four strokes behind Linard in third place.
The past few years have been tough for the Englishman after a couple of wrist injuries, but this is a step in the right direction, and his best finish on the Challenge Tour since a tie for seventh at last year’s Montecchia Golf Open presented by POLAROID.
Lloyd and Widegren had lead alongside Gaunt heading into Sunday’s final 18 holes, but neither quite fired in the final round en route to finishing in a share of fourth place after a pair of 71s.
Englishman Phillip Archer headed a log jam in sixth spot, after a 65 to finish in the Czech Republic. He was alongside compatriots Steven Brown (66), Robert Coles (68) and Lloyd Kennedy (68), as well as Germany’s Florian Fritsch (69) and Switzerland’s Ken Benz (67) on 12 under par.
As the only Czech player to make the cut, Lukas Tintera took a big crowd on the final day, and he gave them plenty to shout about with a level par 72 en route to tie for 46th spot.