After a day of drama all over the golf course, the Aa St Omer Open came to a fitting climax as Sweden’s Joakim Bäckström secured his maiden European Tour title after a sudden-death play-off with England’s Paul Dwyer, giving the Swede the top prize of €66,660 and a treasured one year exemption to The 2006 European Tour.
With both players completing their regulation 72 holes in four under par 280, they were forced to get back on the first tee and go to extra holes. Bäckström found the left rough on the par four first before Dwyer put his ball in a similar spot on the opposite side of the fairway.
The Englishman played his approach first, which came up 30 feet short of the flag, allowing Bäckström to force the issue by landing his own ball ten feet inside Dwyer’s but both men with a tough task of making birdie.
Dwyer was the first to putt, leaving his ball three feet from the cup, while Bäckström rolled his own effort to two feet. With every spectator expecting a halved hole and wondering what would unfold on the next play-off hole, Dwyer pushed his putt past the hole and allowed Bäckström to tap in for the title.
Before the dramatic finish, Dwyer carded a final round of three under par 68 to post the clubhouse lead of four under par before enduring an agonising wait in front of the leaderboard as the final games of the day completed their rounds.
Bäckström, a 2004 European Tour Qualifying School graduate, playing three games behind Dwyer, looked to have taken himself out of the running with a bogey at the 17th to fall back to three under, but made an excellent birdie at the last, fashioned by a great drive and approach to 12 feet which he rolled in to join Dwyer in the clubhouse on four under par 280.
With overnight leader Carl Suneson of Spain at three under with three holes to play, Bäckström joined Dwyer in the long wait to see if Suneson would defeat them or join them in the play-off. The Spaniard, perhaps pushing for the birdie that would have allowed him the chance of the shoot-out, bogeyed the 18th to leave Bäckström and Dwyer in a two man fight to the finish.
It was Bäckström who prevailed, and afterwards delighted in the victory that ensures him category three Membership of The Tour for the next 18 months.
“This means the world to me,” smiled the Swede with the 2005 St Omer trophy in hand. “I have guaranteed starts until the end of 2006 and I can start to plan and play in the really big events. I have been playing the last eight and nine weeks straight but for a lot of those I have been waiting by the phone to see if I would get into these events because I had a low category. Now I can prepare properly for every event and I think that’s massive in this sport because you have to use everything you can to your advantage.”
Bäckström’s fellow countrymen Steven Jeppesen and Michael Jonzon tied Englishman James Heath for third place, with Suneson among the five players sharing sixth.