Ricardo Gouveia capped an incredible season with a stunning victory in the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, winning the Road to Oman Rankings with the highest total earnings for a season in European Challenge Tour history.
The Portuguese came into the season finale as the man to catch after a remarkable year in which he had already claimed 11 top tens in 17 starts, and lived up to his headline billing with a remarkable seven under par final round of 65 – the lowest round of the week – at Muscat’s Almouj Golf, The Wave.
The 24 year old rolled in five straight birdies on the back nine as he set a clubhouse target of 13 under par that could not be matched, Dane Joachim B Hansen finishing one shot further back having led for the first three rounds.
“I have no words,” said Gouveia. “I got my rhythm back in the middle of the round and my putter was really hot on the back nine, I holed a lot of good putts and obviously the most important one on 18 to probably secure the win.
“It was an amazing afternoon, a great week and I just have no words to describe this season.
“It was almost like being on auto-pilot today. I was feeling a little nervous but not too much because I was just in that zone and I just started playing really well and making birdies. I’m just really happy.
“I saw on the tenth tee that I was a bit far back and then after birdies on 12, 13 and 14 I saw the leaderboard on 15 and I was one ahead, then one more birdie on 16 put me two ahead at that point. Then on 18 I saw the big leaderboard to see what I needed on the last and just holed a beautiful putt.
“I don’t know how I will celebrate but I definitely will have a good time with a few family that I have in London and my girlfriend.
“It was great to close out both trophies, the Rankings and this event. That was my goal for the week, to win the event, and I was a bit far back in the middle of the round but then got it going on the back nine.
“It’s the best venue that we come to all year, the best course and the best set-up. The weather is always perfect and it makes total sense for the Grand Final to be held here and hopefully they will keep coming for many years.”
The Challenge Tour Class of 2015
Gouveia was already certain of his spot on The European Tour before the week began but there was much uncertainty about who else would be joining him by finishing in the top 15 in the Rankings.
Hansen’s runner-up finish, birdieing the final three holes, earned him a return to the top table, climbing from 17th to fifth place, while his compatriot Jeff Winther had a flawless final round, a six under par 66 helping him to a share of third place on 11 under par and moving up from 18th to 11th spot, and a place on The European Tour.
Callum Shinkwin’s tied-third finish was also enough for the Englishman to climb ten places and finish 13th in the Rankings, while Nacho Elvira, already a European Tour player after three wins on the Challenge Tour this season, finished alongside him on 11 under par.
Brandon Stone was another not to drop a shot in calmer conditions than forecast, and the South African’s sixth place finish was enough for him to take the 14th spot in the Rankings on an emotional day for many players.
An emotional Brandon Stone on the 18th green
“Heading into this year my goal was to finish top 15,” said Stone, who had a nervous wait before learning of his fate. “To achieve that goal is incredible – it’s just something special. To fulfil a life goal is unimaginably special to me.”
On the wrong side of the line were Scott Henry of Scotland and Englishman Max Orrin, both of whom were inside the predicted 15 for much of the day but whose final round 67s, earning a tie for seventh place, saw them fall agonisingly short of European Tour spots.
Ryan Fox was another who was desperately unlucky, the New Zealander shooting a flawless round of 66 but dropping to 16th place in the Rankings when it mattered the most, just €2,350 behind Jamie McLeary in the 15th and final spot.But the day, and the 2015 season, was all about Gouveia, whose second win this year following his victory at the AEGEAN Airlines Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort took him to more than €250,000 earned this year and saw him eclipse Edoardo Molinari’s season’s earnings record by €8,612.