It was the stuff of dreams for three players at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final as Andrew Johnston, Sam Walker and Pelle Edberg all leapt into the top 20 of the final Challenge Tour Rankings from outside the cut-off point to claim their cards for The 2012 European Tour International Schedule.
Johnston’s elevation was the most impressive, having started the week in 27th place in the Rankings before a stunning performance in Italy which saw him finish tied third on the Adriatic coast.
That was enough not only to claim a European Tour card, but also to move into the top 15 and seal a better category for the 2012 season.
“It feels unbelievable, it’s been such a crazy year,” said the affable Englishman, “I didn’t know whether to take my category 13 on the Challenge Tour this year and take the few events I would get, or go and play on the EuroPro Tour.
“I just said, ‘right that’s it, I'm playing Challenge Tour’ and I was about 50th in the Rankings after three tournaments, but I didn’t get into a tournament for a while then and I was 100th.
“Then I got an invite to the ECCO Tour Championship, just before the Rolex Trophy – I needed a good week there to finish in the top 100 and get into Kazakhstan and Russia and I managed to do that, finished well in both and it just went from there.
“I’ve been very calm this week,” he continued, maybe helped by the presence of his family and girlfriend. “The first three days were good and today was long. The wind was tough and you had to be careful where you hit it, but it’s great to finish the week like this, I'm really happy with it.”
Johnston’s compatriot Walker finished the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in tied sixth after a final round of 70 left him 12 under par for the tournament and five shots behind the winner, and he was lost for words after he clinched 16th spot in the Rankings, having started the week in 22nd.
“I still can’t describe it at the moment but I didn’t play many tournaments; I picked the big ones and did well in them, which is a massive achievement at the end of the day. I’m just glad to be in the top 20, it’s a massive thing to go and play on The European Tour now.
“It’s a massive relief, I don’t have to go to Q-School now because we’ll get categories for the same events, so I just have to get myself ready for next year.
“It’s been a tough this week, I played fantastic for three rounds, I didn’t have a bogey for three rounds and I’ve had four today; but that’s expected in these conditions, they’re a lot tougher but you’ve just got to grind it out and I did that.
“I knew last night where I was because people were tweeting me, but one player did well and got in front of me into 15th position. But I’m happy with 16th, it’s a good position.”
Edberg, meanwhile, had a good spell of form late in the season to thank as his outright fifth place finish meant he just squeezed into the reckoning for a European Tour card, in 18th place in the Rankings.
The Swede finished tied third at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup in September before just missing out on the Roma Golf Open with a play-off defeat to Sam Little.
“I knew I had to finish in the top five so I’m really pleased. I was going to play The European Tour mostly this year, but I played badly and then I decided to come out here instead. I made all the cuts pretty much, and finished third in Russia.
“Then I thought, ‘OK I'm back into it now’ and then I lost to Sam Little in a play-off in Rome, and then I just had to come here and pull it off – and I did.
“I think with the number of events I played this year, to finish in the top 20 is pretty good even though I missed all the co-sanctioned events, so I’m really happy.”