Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Stuart Manley defeated Grant Forrest on the third play-off hole to win the Hauts de France Golf Open and claim his second-career European Challenge Tour victory.

The Welshman, who lost in a play-off at last week’s KPMG Trophy, birdied two of his final four holes to card a closing-round three under par 68 and take a share of the clubhouse lead.

At the time, the six under par total was two shots behind then leader Tom Murray, and it appeared it may be a few strokes too many. When Scotland’s Forrest also signed for a 68, the best Manley could hope for was a chance to win in extra holes.

In the end, that is exactly what he got, as the swirling winds made it difficult for the final groups to match the four-round total of 278.

On the first play-off hole, Forrest came within inches of lifting the trophy as his 45-foot putt up a significant tier in the green narrowly burned the edge. The two men settled for pars, and after another pair of fours on the second sudden-death hole, it was back to the 18th tee again.

This time, Manley wore out Forrest, and after converting his five-foot par putt, he could finally exhale as a champion following two-straight weeks of competing near the top of the leaderboard.

“I’m delighted,” said Manley. “After last week’s play-off loss and then to get into another one this week, I just kept telling myself ‘come on you can do this’.

“I just needed the win. I didn’t want to lose this thing.”

Despite not leading after any day, the 39 year old relied on his wealth of experience to navigate the difficult Saint-Omer Golf Club.

He said: “My game wasn’t there this week. Last week it was good but this week I just seemed to grind it out — I think the golf course suits me in that way — I seemed to just keep it in play and hole-out well, so to win without playing my A-game, I’m absolutely chuffed.”

With the win, Manley moves into the third position on the Road To Ras Al Khaimah, which will go a long way to securing his place in the top-15, and earning a coveted European Tour card, come the end of the Challenge Tour season. However, the Aberdare resident will refuse to let up going forward.

“The goal of the season was to hopefully win the Road To Ras Al Khaimah. I think that would be a great achievement,” Manley explained.

“I’m in a good position to do so now if I can just keep pressing on, take each week as it comes, try to get some more money on the board every week and don’t take my foot off the gas.” 

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