Kevin Spurgeon staged a brave final round fightback to capture an emotional maiden European Senior Tour victory by one stroke from former Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand in the inaugural Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.
The 54 year Englishman broke his Senior Tour duck in the opening event of his sixth season on the Senior Tour, firing a closing round 72 to finish on six under par 210, with Brand on five under par and Sam Torrance a further shot back in a tie for third with Angel Franco.
It capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Spurgeon, who had only gained his 2009 Senior Tour card at Qualifying School and finished 31st on the Order of Merit last season.
“This is huge for me,” said Spurgeon, whose father Keith managed football giants Ajax in the 1960s. “This is the start of my sixth season on the Senior Tour and I finished last year really badly so to start the 2010 season off by winning is massive.
“I knew I was one ahead coming down the last and a five would suffice so I didn’t hit driver then had an easy eight iron into play and the hardest shot was the chip from 60 yards but it landed nicely.
“I was actually in tears after that, seeing everyone around the green. I knew Ellie (his wife) was in the crowd. It’s been the best week of my life in golf.”
Spurgeon, whose previous best finish was tied second in the 2007 Irish Seniors Open, had taken a two stroke lead into the final round at Constance Belle Mare
Plage’s Legend Course but looked as if he had let his chance of silverware slip after a nervy front nine.
He dropped shots on the third, fifth, seventh and ninth holes, with his only birdie before the turn coming on the fourth hole. That had let compatriot Nick Job move ahead of him at the top of the leaderboard and a double bogey on the 11th looked to have ended his chances of victory.
However Job’s quadruple bogey eight on the next hole, combined with Spurgeon’s morale boosting birdie, saw the momentum swing back in his favour and further birdies on the 13th and 16th hole saw Spurgeon claim the €34,500 first prize, with Job eventually posting a 76 for a share of 14th place.
“I’ve been in the position when I’ve been leading before but it was a while ago so I was nervous,” said Spurgeon. “I’ve got to deal with it and I did as best I could.
“I was a bit shaky off the first and the second and three putted the third which gave me some jitters but then I hung on in there.
“On the 11th I actually made a good five. I missed the green left and hit a tree and then I duffed it but then chipped to five feet and holed it so it was a good five in the end. I did think that I was out of it after that as Nick birdied it to go to seven under par and I went back to three under so there was a big swing of shots there.
“Then he took eight on the next and I took three so I got them all back in one go which gave me more confidence and Nick fell away a bit.
“This win really sets me up for the season and gives me a couple of years exemption so it is huge for me. I’ve really enjoyed my time on the Senior Tour and I’ve earned some money but to get a win means I’ve done what I set out to do. I really can’t describe how much it means to me.”
Brand’s second place suggested the new season could see him put an indifferent 2009 behind him and return to the form that saw him win two Senior Tour titles in 2008 when he finished second behind Ian Woosnam in the Order of Merit.
After birdies on the first two holes and the tenth, Brand’s only bogey of the day on the 15th hole proved costly as he narrowly missed out on his sixth Senior Tour title by a single shot, with a birdie on the 16th not quite enough to force a play-off.
He said: “I played well all week and perhaps I could have been more aggressive on the last but my confidence is coming back and it was nice to see Kevin win his first title. This is a tough place to do it if you haven’t won before.”
Like Brand, former Ryder Cup Captain Torrance surged through the field on the final day, shooting a superb 67 to finish in a tie for third with Paraguayan Angel Franco, who signed for a 70.
Torrance’s opening round 74 ultimately proved his downfall but the Scot’s closing 18 holes suggested the 2009 Order of Merit winner will once again be the man to catch in the new campaign.
“I played beautifully, absolutely beautifully,” he said. “I bogeyed the 17th and that was the only weak shot I played all day. I had chances all the way in but anyway, it’s not a bad start. The form continues.
“I had a poor back nine on the front day when I shot 40 and that was my tournament gone then. It’s another good start to the year though.”
Debutant David Frost, a two time European Tour winner, closed with a 73 to finish in a share of fifth with fellow South African John Bland and American pair Bob Boyd and Mike Cunning, the winner of the 2009 season-opening event in Brunei.