Wednesday, 01 January 2014
Brinson Paolini - Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge Champion 2013 (Alexis Orloff / ffgolfproduction) ()
Brinson Paolini - Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge Champion 2013 (Alexis Orloff / ffgolfproduction) ()

Brinson Paolini fired four rounds in the 60s en route to claiming a maiden professional victory at Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge, in just his third start on the Challenge Tour.

The American kept his cool in the heat of the final day at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, carding a solitary bogey in his final 54 holes en route to an impressive score of 19 under par, at the end of a week disrupted by the weather.

For much of the final day it had looked like Sihwan Kim would be the recipient of the trophy at the inaugural staging of this event. However his four shot lead with 18 holes to go evaporated after the turn, and a three putt bogey on the last cost him a place in a play-off, as he fell into a share of second place alongside Spain's Adrian Otaegui.

Paolini was clearly overjoyed with his victory though, and it comes as no surprise for a man who has enjoyed great amateur success the other side of the Atlantic.

He started the week playing on invites and unsure where he would be teeing it up next, but this triumph sees him earn full playing rights on the Challenge Tour for the rest of the year. He is also now handily placed to kick on and perhaps earn a European Tour card come the end of the season.

"It is an incredible feeling, I don't think it will sink in until tomorrow to be honest," explained Paolini. "To get a win in my third start as a professional is something that I could not have even dreamed of happening, so I'm very happy.

"Switzerland was my first event and I finished second and was in contention there, which did a lot for my confidence, to know that I can play and compete out here at the highest level. I always enter tournaments trying to win, but it is whether you believe that you can win or not, which is a different battle. But I believed I could this week, and I'm just very grateful and fortunate to be here."

Paolini has been decorated throughout his amateur career, achieving great success in his four years at Duke University before his graduation last month, and being used to playing two rounds in one day proved useful to the Virginia native.

"I thought playing the rest of the third round on top of the final 18 was an advantage for me," said Paolini. "Coming from college golf we play 36 hole days a lot, and so I thought that could help. That's how I approached it, and when I came out and birdied my first two holes this morning, that set the tone for the day, and I was fortunate to keep it going.

"I normally don't look at leaderboards, so I checked after we finished the third round, but not at all in the final round until I two putted the 17th for par, which was when my caddie turned to me and said that I might want to take a look. When he said that I knew we had a good chance, and my goal was to make eagle down the last, which I thought would be good enough for a play-off. I was fortunate therefore that a birdie turned out good enough for me to get the win."

Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge Champion could not keep the smile from his face upon being presented with an impressive first professional trophy, and upon the realisation that he now has a place to play for the rest of the year.

"I have no idea what my schedule will be going forward, as before I was just trying to get a few starts here and there, so it is an amazing feeling to know that I have status here and have somewhere to play. I've got a good chance now of perhaps getting my European Tour card too, which would be incredible, so I'll sit down tonight and figure it all out."

Through nine holes of the final round, and for much of the second and third days, it had looked like the trophy would end up in the hands of Kim, who led by at least four strokes at numerous points.

However five shots dropped round the turn saw the Korean fall a couple of shots behind the leading players, and although he bounced back with birdies at the 15th and 17th, a costly bogey at the last saw him lose out.

"I'm pretty disappointed with my back nine," admitted Kim. "I started hooking it a bit and was trying to compensate, so I was doing a lot of things that I shouldn't have been. I missed a bunch of greens, and didn't make too many putts, but I gave myself a chance and it just wasn't my day. Maybe next time.

"I knew that there were so many birdie holes out there, so I just had to focus and perform, but it just didn't happen. I felt the nerves a little bit, and then with the wind the course was a lot tougher, but congrats to Paolini. He played a great round today, and he deserves it."

Alongside Kim in a share of second place was Otaegui, who carded three birdies on his front nine en route to the top of the leaderboard as Kim dropped back. However a card bereft of red numbers on the final nine holes, as well as a bogey at 14, saw him finish one shot shy of a play-off.

England's Philip Archer (67) finished in a tie for fourth in France, thanks in part to two consecutive eagles from the seventh on Sunday, the same mark as Dylan Frittelli (68), Daan Huizing (68) and Duncan Stewart (68), all of whom finished at 17 under par.

Edouard Espana (72) played in the final group alongside Kim, and he finished as top Frenchman, in a tie for tenth at 15 under. Meanwhile compatriot, and amateur, Clément Sordet finished two shots further adrift after a stunning albatross on the par five 12th, his third hole of the final round.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1JOHNSTON, AndrewENG18-16
T2SORDET (AM), ClémentFRA18-12
T2AN, Byeong-hunKOR18-12
T2ARENDELL, ConnorUSA18-12
T2FAHRBRING, JensSWE18-12
T6ESPANA, EdouardFRA18-11
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