Australian Matt Zions won his first European Tour title in convincing fashion at the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC with a final round 69 giving him a seven shot victory.
The 32 year old started the day three shots clear and was never troubled as Daniel Denison and Federico Colombo, both in the final group, carded 73 and 76 respectively, and George Coetzee, another who was three shots off the pace at the beginning of the round, signed for a 75.
Denison’s score was enough for a share of second place at one under along Swede Peter Gustafsson, who had a two under par 69, and Scotland’s Craig Lee, who finished with a 72.
A bogey at the fifth might have given some hope to the chasing pack, but Zions, a 2010 Challenge Tour graduate, resumed control around the turn with birdies at the eighth, ninth and 11th. He bogeyed the 13th but immediately made amends by birdieing the next hole and finished with four straight pars.
“It feels like I’m dreaming,” said Zions, who earns €100,000 prize money. “The last four holes I was wondering when I could start thinking about winning, and when would be too soon that it tempted fate. I had a lump in my throat a couple of times.
“This is a huge day, it’s hard to believe. My ball striking was great all week and I hardly missed any greens. We’re not out here just to collect the cheque. It was nice to feel those butterflies this morning and feel the adrenaline as I was coming down the stretch. That’s why we play.
“If I was one or two ahead I might’ve been more nervous. But I tried to treat it like any other round, and on the second I hit a beautiful four iron 220 yards to about 20 feet, so that settled me a lot. I knew it would be tough for the other guys to catch me with low scores in these conditions, so I just tried to be sensible.
“I’m supposed to be playing French Open qualifying tomorrow but there’s no chance I’m going to that now. Hopefully I can get back to London tonight to celebrate this win with my wife and two little girls.”
Lee admitted it was always going to be tough to catch Zions, but said he was thrilled with a share of second place – his best European Tour performance to date.
“I’m delighted with that finish,” he said. “I tried not to look at the leaderboard but I saw it on the 15th and saw he was six shots ahead, so I knew then that I had to focus on finishing second. On the one hand I had to go after birdies to try to catch Matt, but I didn’t want to do anything silly and fall way back.
“This week has probably been the four most mentally challenging rounds of my career. The course, the wind… it has been very tough. I did think the winning score would be lower, but now it’s the end of the tournament eight under is looking like a very good score.
“This is a great achievement for me. Financially it’s fantastic and means it will take care of the rest of the season. Plus I’ll jump a long way up the Challenge Tour Rankings.”
Denison was also delighted with a share of second, saying: “It’s awesome. This tournament is like a Majors for us on the Challenge Tour. The prize money is three times as much as normal. So second is a great result.
“Matt holed putts at crucial times and never looked like making mistakes. He played well. The turning point was the 12th when he knocked a nice birdie putt in and I three-putted from 20 feet. That was it then. I was only ever going after the runner-up spot.
“I three-putted 17th as well which stopped me going second on my own. But the prize money will shoot me up the Rankings significantly, which is where I want to be.”