South African Darren Fichardt withstood another day of high winds and the challenge of English duo Simon Wakefield and Gary Lockerbie to claim his third European Tour title in the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC.
Having started the day five shots clear of his nearest rival, Fichardt’s two over par round of 73 was enough to seal the victory at five under, three strokes ahead of Lockerbie, who signed for a 69, and four from Wakefield, who bogeyed the last for a 72.
It became something of a three-horse race on the final day at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club, which was battered by strong winds over the weekend, as the trio were the only players to finish under par for the tournament.
Fichardt’s lead was down to two at one point when he bogeyed the third to Wakefield’s birdie, but a double bogey for the Englishman at the fifth and four more bogeys on the back nine put paid to his challenge.
Lockerbie birdied the 16th and 17th to make a late charge, which ultimately proved good enough for second place on his own as Wakefield could not get up and down from the back of the green at the 18th.
Fichardt admitted there were “no heroics” in his round, and he was just grateful to hang on for the win.
“It was messy today,” said the 37 year old. “It definitely wasn’t pretty. I was absolutely terrified and I was happy we didn’t have to play any more holes.
“To win is awesome. The last four years I’ve had injuries and missed out at the Qualifying School a couple of times, and you wonder if you’ll ever make it back. So it was amazing to get my card last year back at Q School, and to win on my ninth start this season is a dream come true. The exemption for next season is very welcome.”
Fichardt won the 2001 Sao Paulo Brazil Open and the 2003 Qatar Masters and played in the 2000 World Cup alongside Retief Goosen, and he drew on his vast experience to see out the victory in France.
“I’ve been in the lead before going into the final round, so I was familiar with the feeling,” he said. “But this golf course has a lot of trouble, and if you try and play safe you can just end up in even more trouble, so I was happy to get the job done in the end.
“I was struggling with the lines and pace of putts on the greens, and my club selection was out today, but in the end I got it round and made a few good putts to save par.”
Lockerbie was delighted with his finish, saying: “I haven’t had much luck in the past here, so this is a welcome change. I knew Darren would have to have a complete disaster for anyone else to win, but I knew second place was up for grabs and I’m very pleased I was able to finish well.
“This tournament is like a Major for the Challenge Tour so I’m delighted with my performance.”