(Reuters) - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano followed in the footsteps of his idol Severiano Ballesteros when the rookie Spaniard's maiden victory came in The KLM Open at the Hilversumsche Golf Club in the Netherlands.
Ballesteros's first European Tour title was won in the Netherlands too in 1976 and his 24 year old compatriot captured the 2005 version by two strokes with a closing three under par 67 for an 11 under par 269 total, ahead of England’s Gary Emerson with fellow countryman Paul Broadhurst third on 272.
While it took Ballesteros 27 events to claim his first title in his second year on tour, it has taken Fernandez-Castano only 16 tournaments before winning in his rookie year. He achieved the feat in typical Ballesteros style, holing out for an eagle two from 161 yards on the third and running in several huge putts.
Emerson began the final round a stroke in front of Fernandez-Castano but a day of missing fairways and greens by the 41 year old put paid to his chances of a second title after last year's BMW Russian Open success, as he carded a 70 for 271.
Fernandez-Castano went past playing partner Emerson as early as the third by holing out on the full with his seven-iron second shot from 161 yards.
The young Spaniard's name looked to already be written on the trophy by the time he had reached the turn three strokes ahead as he collected birdies on the eighth and ninth from 40ft and 25ft respectively.
After moving four shots ahead, Fernandez-Castano's lead was halved when Emerson chipped in for eagle on the long 12th, but a bogey on the 16th finally ended his hopes. Fernandez-Castano's victory was the 131st by a Spaniard on The European Tour and lifted him to 20th on the Order of Merit.
It came only nine months after the Spanish player turned professional and seven months since he won his card at the qualifying school.
"Just a year ago I was not sure about turning professional," said Fernandez-Castano. "I was studying for my degree in business studies and playing amateur golf and I was not sure my game was good enough but at the end of last year I decided to give it a go.But this win has come quickly, quicker than I thought
"Today I felt the pressure because there is a big difference to the amateur game but I stayed focus and I had some good up-and-downs and sank a lot of big putts."
Fernandez-Castano not only paid tribute to Ballesteros for his encouragement but "all the Spanish pros out here, who have helped me just as much as Seve."
Emerson said he had “given it my best shot” but he only hit four of the 14 fairways and his wayward driving proved costly. His consolation was to secure his card for next year as his Moscow success last year in the tournament matched with the Challenge Tour only gave him a one year tour exemption.
Fellow Englishman Broadhurst, who had contended strongly all week and who began the final round a stroke adrift of Emerson with Fernandez-Castano, finished a further stroke back after a 70.
Local Dutch hero and the 2003 champion Maarten Lafeber momentarily gave the home fans hope of a second success, but he eventually ran out of holes and closed with a 68 to share fourth place on seven under with Austrian Markus Brier (69).
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