After a record 16 visits to the Qualifying School Finals and 20 years of sheer endeavour to carve out a successful career on The European Tour, England’s Philip Golding won his maiden title when he birdied the last to win the Open de France at Le Golf National by a stroke.
If ever a player epitomised the old adage of "try, try and try again" then it is the resilient 40 year old, who considered giving up the game rather than return to the Qualifying School Finals for a record 16th time but his family and friends persuaded him otherwise. It proved to be the wisest decision of his career.
Golding closed with a final round of 69 for a 15 under par total of 273, finishing one stroke ahead of fellow Englishman, David Howell - who also carded a 69. Another English golfer, Justin Rose, signed for a superb 65 to share third with Australian Peter O'Malley on 275.
Victory in France meant considerably more to Golding than simply the €416,660 (£290,791) cheque, which almost doubles his entire career earnings on The European Tour at the start of this season.
More precious to this determined and dedicated golfer is the invaluable two year exemption, which permits him the luxury of a close season without the recurrent torment of a visit to the Qualifying School. At last Golding can savour his winter break with his family safe in the knowledge that he now belongs to the family of European Tour champions.
“I might go to the Tour School and watch!” he quipped. “Nothing has sunk in yet. There is the financial side and the two year exemption, as well as winning at 40 in one of the most prestigious tournaments on The European Tour. I’m sure I shall find something to do in November.”
Starting the final day one shot clear of the field, Golding was determined to hold on to his lead. He recovered from an early bogey with two birdies on the sixth and the ninth and after birdieing the 13th and 14th he was two clear with four to play.
An error on the tough 16th cost him a shot and when fellow Howell birdied the last, Golding was level with his closest challenger. He knew he needed a birdie four to win and he rose to the challenge magnificently, finding the putting surface in two and two putting for the title.
“Every time I thought of my family I got a bit emotional on the course,” he said. “I knew how they would react to every birdie and had to bring myself to the present every time and remind myself to concentrate on every shot. I felt I did that well. It was tough out there.
"It was the longest weekend of my life so far. I made a point of really enjoying the tournament and atmosphere. I had a few hours sleep last night, not as much as normal but I felt good this morning. I looked at the leaderboard a couple of times to see where I was. I saw David had made a birdie on the 18th so I knew I needed four to win and did. I’m absolutely delighted.
“I have worked hard over the years. I’ve been to the School many times and could have given up but kept battling away. To win at 40 is fantastic.”
Howell was Golding’s main threat throughout the day but gave his fellow Englishman a bit of breathing space when he pulled his tee shot on the 16th and dropped a shot. Nevertheless two putts in the last two holes could easily have dropped as he finished with a 69 and 14 under par total of 274.
Howell said: “I played well again. I didn’t do an awful lot wrong but came up one short at the end of the day. Phil played well. It was a tough day out there. I was quite nervous but handled it reasonably well. I was just really pleased with the way I played the last. I had two putts the last two holes that could easily have gone in and that is the difference. It was a great week but not quite to be.
“I Hit a bad shot at the 15th but finished the hole off brilliantly. Then the 16th is one of those holes. You can’t go right and I just didn’t put a good swing on it. That was disappointing but I played the last well and gave myself a chance. But it is a good cheque, gets me up the Volvo Order of Merit and gives me some confidence.
“Phil was brilliant. He's 40 and he has been struggling for 15 years to keep his card. This is a great win for him.”
Rose, who set a tough target earlier in the afternoon, admitted that hihs closing 65 had given him considerable confidence ahead of the Smurfit European Open at The K Club and the Open Championship - especially as the wind blew on the final day in Paris.
"I think if the wind blew at the Open it would be fantastic" he said. "It was not blowing strongly enough to make people shoot high scores but enough to make it difficult.
The course has an element of links golf to it."
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell recorded the second albatross of the season on The European Tour. He reduced the 521 yard 18th to a drive and 136 yard wedge to move -literally, at a stroke - from five under par to eight under for the tournament.