Belgium’s Pierre Relecom claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title at the Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf, after a dramatic finale in which Italian Niccolo Quintarelli narrowly missed a six-foot putt at the last to force a play-off.
The big-hitting Brussels player entered the final day one shot off the lead but showed the skill and poise of an experienced champion as he cruised four shots clear stepping onto the 16th tee.
But he endured a nervy finish, bogeying the final two while his playing partner Quintarelli birdied the 16th and came agonisingly close to taking it to extra holes.
It was to be Relecom’s day though, and the 29 year old must have felt it in the warm Alps air when he holed out with a chip from 70 yards for a stunning two at the par four 14th. He had already been on imperious form and he followed that eagle with a fourth birdie of the day at the 15th.
A bogey at the par five 17th meant the Brussels player was just two shots clear going down the last and when he over-cooked his approach to just beside the spectator stand at the stunning Golf Sempachersee, it had looked like there was to be a final twist in the tale.
Quintarelli hit a superb shot to within six feet but after Relecom recorded a bogey, the Venetian’s putt curled around the lip of the hole to hand his playing partner a one-shot victory, making him the fourth Belgian winner in Challenge Tour history.
“I'm really happy,” said Relecom, who carded a three under par 68 to finish on 15 under par. “I was pretty calm all day and then suddenly I started to get a bit excited at the last two holes, but I’ve really enjoyed this whole week.
“I've been injured for the last month, this was my comeback tournament, so I just tried to enjoy it and this is the cherry on the cake.
“I decided to go for it and attack today. I did that on the first two days, using driver everywhere and using my power, then have wedges in and hole putts. On Saturday, I started really well but then I started to play more conservative and I lost a few putts.
“Today I went all-out, hitting driver everywhere. I had a good start but then got a bit tentative over my shots. Then at 14 I holed a shot with a wedge and had a birdie after that. I hit good shots in the last three holes but I think I needed to judge my power a bit better, I had a bit of adrenaline pumping so they went long.
“Niccolo played really well and put the pressure on with his birdie at the 16th and then at the 18th he was unlucky to miss the putt because he hit a really good stroke.
“At the 14th, I obviously thought maybe this is my day but I told myself to just stay focussed and don’t picture yourself as the winner yet, just get the work done. In the end I scraped through but it’s done. It’s always nice to have a highlight like that in a round.”
This win continues an uncanny series of events which has seen almost all of Relecom’s career highlights and turning points take place in Switzerland.
One of his biggest amateur victories came at the 2007 Swiss Amateur Open Championship, and as a result of that win he earned a place in the Omega European Masters, where he made the cut.
In turn, that performance on the big stage convinced him he should turn professional and then the Royal Waterloo Golf Club player made his debut in the paid ranks at this very tournament, the Swiss Challenge.
“I've been coming here since I was very young,” said the former Belgian international amateur, who moved from 128th to 20th in the Challenge Tour Rankings. “When I made the cut in Crans Montana I thought, ‘why not play golf as a job’, because I studied for five years and my goal was more to work for a bank or in finance.
“Golf is more deception than satisfaction but here is one very happy moment for me so let’s enjoy it. I have a great relationship with this country.”
Quintarelli, meanwhile, also carded a final round 68 to finish on 14 under and record the best finish of his Challenge Tour career, in outright second place.
Former European Tour winner Rhys Davies also picked up his best result of the year, tied third place, alongside promising young Swiss amateur Mathias Eggenberger and 2010 Scottish Hydro Challenge winner George Murray of Scotland.
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