Jordi Garcia Pinto showed all the class and composure of a future European Tour star as the Spaniard soared to a second Challenge Tour victory at the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open, virtually securing his playing rights on The 2015 Race to Dubai in the process.
The 24 year old led by two shots heading into the final day at the pristine Aa Saint Omer Golf Club and came under some intense pressure midway through the final day as several players made a charge towards the top.
Garcia Pinto stood firm, however, and displayed imperious poise as he parred the opening nine holes before following that up with a rock-solid one under back nine to clinch victory courtesy of a bogey-free 70.
The Girona player, who led the Rankings by just €807 before this week’s tournament, finished the tournament on seven under par, three clear of his compatriot Carlos Aguilar, and moved to €93,421 in the rankings – far surpassing the €78,676 which earned Scot Jamie McLeary the last of 15 European Tour cards last year.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Garcia Pinto, who will sit an exam for a Masters Law degree in his home city next week. “I think now I have enough money to be on The European Tour next year so it means a lot to me.
“I didn’t make any bogeys and that was huge. On this course it is very easy to make bogeys but I managed to save any bad moments I had.
“I worked really hard over the winter and that has helped me play at the level I am playing at now. My second win means something completely different to my first because my first one wasn’t expected at all.
“With this one, I have been leading the Challenge Tour Rankings for most of the season and it was very important for me to get a win. I'm growing up and improving every year, you only need to see my stats. Every year I have improved 20 or 30 spots in the Challenge Tour Rankings.
“I've been working really hard and you can only expect good results if you work hard. There was no game plan today. The only reason I had so many pars was because I could not make any birdies. I didn’t make the chances and when I did, I didn’t make the putts.
“The (ten foot) par putt on the ninth was very important for me, after a poor bunker shot. That gave me confidence for the back nine.”
Garcia Pinto is a rarity in professional golf in that for the past two years he has decided to forego the opportunity of a direct route to The European Tour via Qualifying School Final Stage –which takes place on his home course and European Tour Destination, PGA Catalunya Resort.
The law graduate believed he would only be ready for the challenges The European Tour presents when he could prove he was good enough to graduate from the Challenge Tour and, after a tied runner-up finish at the dual-ranking NH Collection Open followed by a tied third place finish at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI, Garcia Pinto is beginning to prove he is well capable of taking on Europe’s elite.
“I think it was definitely the right decision,” he said. “I didn’t want to play The European Tour just for the sake of playing it. I wanted to wait until the right moment and I think now is the right moment.
“Hopefully I can keep playing like this until the end of the year and we will see what happens. The only plan I have now is to go home tonight and have some pizza and pasta with my girlfriend. With regard to the rest of the season, I will try to do my best and we’ll just see what happens.
“If I get two more wins, perfect, but if not I will just try to play my best and see where that gets me. On The European Tour there are a lot of players who play at a very high level. Right now, I'm on the Challenge Tour and I will just focus on that until the end of the season.”
Aguilar, meanwhile, finished with a stunning birdie at the 18th, holing out from a greenside bunker, to secure outright second place on four under par after signing for a level par 71.
The Alicante player was delighted with such a spectacular finish in front of the watching crowds and, while he was disappointed not to have pushed his compatriot and playing partner a little closer, he was happy to see his friend claim a deserved victory.
“It was a great finish for me,” said the 31 year old. “I was under a little bit of pressure because I knew I had to finish with a par at best to get second place on my own. I just tried to hit it behind the ball and release and get it close to make one putt. Sometimes you just get lucky.
“I'm really happy for Jordi because he has played awesome all season and I have no complaints. He has always been a very good player but now he knows what he has to do every week and he’s pushing for the title almost every week so it’s no surprise to me that he is getting these results.”
There were five players in a share of third place on two under par – Lorenzo Gagli (71) and Andrea Rota (72) of Italy, Scotsman Scott Henry (69), England’s Lloyd Kennedy (71) and Chilean Mark Tullo (68).
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