Damien Perrier claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge after emerging from an enthralling final day battle with a one-shot victory, courtesy of four under par 68.
In a tense finale, Perrier shared the lead with his playing partner and fellow Frenchman Adrien Saddier when the last group stepped onto the 17th tee.
A dropped shot for Saddier on that difficult par three, however, meant that Perrier held a one-shot advantage over his compatriot, and the other man in the final three-ball Jordan L Smith, going down the last.
Perrier’s wayward drive found the semi-rough on the left and, although a nerveless approach fell to 22 feet from the hole, his missed birdie putt opened the door for Saddier and Smith to force a play-off.
They both failed to convert their birdie opportunities though, and Perrier was left with the simplest of tap-ins for a 24 under total and a victory which moves the 26 year old from 64th to eighth in the Road to Oman.
“It’s a great feeling to get my first win on the Challenge Tour,” said the Brittany player, the third French winner of the Czech Challenge in five years. “It’s the biggest victory of my career, not only because it’s on this tour, but also because of the battle with my two partners today.
“Jordan has a good ranking at the moment and he’s in good form. Adrien was also looking for his first victory so he was also battling hard until the end. To be honest it was impossible at any point in the round to know who was going to win this one.
“I just kept focused shot by shot. I think it’s almost easier to do that when you’re battling with two guys, instead of being two shots clear and getting distracted by other factors. It was really intense, but finally I did it so I’m really happy.
“On the 18th, that’s when I felt the pressure for the first time after moving one clear. But it wasn’t finished yet and you never know what can happen. I missed my tee shot to the left and I was almost in the heavy rough, but I found a flier lie and although it wasn’t an easy shot with the adrenaline, I hit it nicely to the middle of the green.
“I was just crossing my fingers that neither of the guys made birdie to force a play-off. They got close but didn’t hole them - it was really intense but I could breathe easily.”
It was a particularly special moment for the two-time Alps Tour graduate as he had his girlfriend on the bag – Marina Rinaldi, who is also a fledgling golf professional – and he was full of praise for her contribution to the victory.
“This is the first time she’s been on the bag this year,” he said. “Last year she caddied for me on the Alps Tour – we didn’t have any victories but I got a Challenge Tour card by finishing top five in the rankings and we were really consistent.
“A really huge thanks to her because she helped me a lot under pressure today and all week long, to keep focused on every shot and stay concentrated until the very last putt. She helped me a lot.
“It’s a big change for my career because it gives me a lot of points on the Road to Oman, as well as confidence. It’s a very big step for me for my future.”
Saddier, who signed for the best round of the final group – a five under 67 – was left to rue one mistake on the penultimate hole but the blow was softened somewhat by the fact that his friend and countryman took the trophy.
“It’s a feeling between happiness and disappointment,” said the 24 year old. “I didn’t win but I shot 23 under, so it’s a great week and I’m happy with that. I think I played very well under the pressure today and I just made one bad shot, but it’s a tough hole.
“I thought I would hole the putt for birdie at the 18th but it didn’t drop, so next time hopefully it will happen. It’s nice to see another French winner on the Challenge Tour – I’m very happy for him.”
Saddier shared second place with Smith, who carded a four under 68 and also had some consolation as he moved to the top of the Road to Oman Rankings, overtaking Matthieu Pavon at the summit.
Former European Tour winner and 2012 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Ricardo Santos earned his best finish of the season as a six under par 66 elevated the Portuguese to a share of fourth spot, alongside Australia’s Daniel Gaunt (68) and Christofer Blomstrand (69) of Sweden.