Victor Riu overcame a nervous start to claim his maiden Challenge Tour title at the Swiss Challenge, posting a final round one under par 70 to win by three shots.
The Frenchman, who started the day with a four stroke lead, was two over par after ten holes, but rallied on the back nine to hold off Englishman Adam Gee, who drew level at one stage but ultimately had to settle for a share of second place after a 67.
Alongside Gee was young American Brinson Paolini, who was playing his first tournament as a professional and first event in Europe, and showed he is one to watch after carding weekend rounds of 64 and 65.
Riu looked to be on the ropes at one stage, but a birdie at the 15th coupled with a bogey for Gee, playing in the group in front, gave him a two shot cushion. The Paris-based player then birdied the 16th and 17th for good measure, meaning Gee’s eagle-bogey finish had no effect on the outcome.
“I’m so happy, but it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” said the 28 year old. “I struggled a lot at the start so I’m delighted that I was able to produce a strong finish.
“I was very nervous and tight on the first few holes and I didn’t trust my swing. I was in the last group last week and didn’t finish well, so I learned from that that I needed to relax.
“My putting was a lot better on the back nine, and it was important to get that birdie on the 17th to play the last with no pressure. It’s a tricky hole with a difficult green, and it’s easy to make bogey. On the 17th there was still only one shot in it, as I didn’t know Adam had bogeyed the last, so it was a relief to make a birdie there.”
Riu, who collected €25,600 and rises to third in the Rankings, added: “The goal is still to finish the season in the top 15 and move up to The European Tour, and hopefully I will do that now I have won. This is my fifth season on the Challenge Tour, so it’s about time I moved on.”
Paolini was delighted with his debut as a professional, having been inspired by the likes of Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka to start his career on this side of the Atlantic.
“I’m just grateful to be here and I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of the opportunity to play this week,” said the Duke University graduate. “I wanted to put a little more pressure on Victor coming in. I thought if I could get to 17 under I’d have a chance, but I can’t complain – it’s been a great week.
“The eagle on the 17th was nice – I made a long putt. Overall it’s been a lot of fun and it has given me a lot of confidence for next week. To know that I can compete and contend out here is huge, and hopefully I can do the same again in Italy.”