Sunday, 12 July 2015

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  • Borja Virto Astudillo (pic by Ota Mrákota / RELMOST)
Borja Virto Astudillo earned his debut Challenge Tour title in truly dramatic fashion, chipping in for birdie on the 72nd hole to win the D+D Slovakia Challenge by a single stroke.

The Spaniard was level pegging with playing partner Ricardo Gouveia on 16 under par, but denied the Portuguese back-to-back wins after chipping in from just off the 18th green to spark scenes of wild celebration at Penati Golf Resort in Senica, Slovakia. 

With Denmark’s Jeff Winther, playing in the final group, needing an unlikely eagle on the last to join Virto Astudillo on 17 under par, the Spaniard still faced an anxious wait to have his maiden victory confirmed but, after watching Winther make par, he could finally relax for the first time on a tense final day. 

He said: “I normally stay pretty calm on the golf course, but I did the biggest fist-pump of my life when that chip went in on the last. It was only just off the green but it had to go up and over a big slope and then down the other side, so it definitely wasn’t easy. To win your first title is always very special, but to shoot 66 and chip in on the last hole – it doesn’t get much better than that.”

The €26,400 cheque moved Virto Astudillo, who came through the Qualifying School last year, up to 12th place in the Road to Oman Rankings, and whilst he is likely to concentrate predominantly on The European Tour for the remainder of the season, the victory has restored some self-belief.      

He said: “I don’t know why, but I just feel more comfortable on the Challenge Tour. It shouldn’t matter what Tour you’re playing on, because you’re only playing the golf course and not the rest of the field. But hopefully this win gives me confidence to take onto the main Tour, because I believe my game is good enough to compete out there.

“I played very well today, just hit two bad shots which cost me bogeys on the eighth and 17th. I actually made a good bogey on the eighth, because I hit my second into the water but managed to get up down from 80 metres. Then on the 17th I hit my approach shot right and didn’t manage to save par. So it was a really bad time to make bogey but I managed to stay calm, and then to finish like I did was obviously a dream.”

Gouveia pushed Virto Astudillo all the way, but a closing round of 68 for a 16 under par aggregate total was ultimately not quite enough to secure a second successive victory, following his win in Germany last week.          

However, the Portuguese could console himself with the fact that his cheque for €18,150 saw him displace Frenchman Sebastien Gros at the top of the Road to Oman Rankings.

Winther continued his fine form, finishing in the top three for the second week running to climb to 16th in the Road to Oman Rankings. 

Fourth place was shared between a trio of Scots, Jack Doherty (71), Scott Henry (66) and Jamie McLeary (69), who all finished on 13 under par.


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