Spaniard Domingo Hospital captured his maiden Senior Tour title with a round of 74 on a nerve-jangling final day at the inaugural Sicilian Senior Open.
Hospital, who led by one stroke from Horacio Carbonetti going into the closing round of the €250,000 event, edged out the Argentine on the first extra hole to take the €37,500 first prize after both men had finished on five under par at Il Picciolo Golf Club, on the holiday island of Sicily.
Hospital had endured an indifferent season to date, having failed to muster a top ten finish all year, and his wretched run seemed set to continue when, after a bright start, he dropped shots at the fourth and sixth hole.
The 52 year old from Barcelona rallied briefly with a birdie at the ninth hole, but a bogey at the 13th appeared to put pay to his chances. However, Carbonetti promptly dropped shots at the 15th and 16th holes to offer Hospital a route back, and after both players had parred the last two holes, they returned to the 18th tee to resume their duel.
Both men laid up with their second shots, but Carbonetti went through the back of the green with his approach to hand the advantage to Hospital, who found the heart of the putting surface.
When the Argentine’s chip from the fringe sped 20 feet past the cup it looked as though his chance had gone, but the 62 year old came mightily close to saving par with an aggressive putt which hit the hole – but failed to drop.
The Spaniard was thus left with two putts for victory, which he duly took to climb to 35th on the Order of Merit and so rescue a season which had seemed destined to end in disappointment.
Hospital, whose nephew Agustin Domingo Hospital also won on Sicilian soil on the Alps Tour, said: “I’m absolutely delighted – even an hour ago it didn’t look as though I would be winning the tournament. I missed a lot of short putts today, especially at the start of my round, and it affected my confidence.
“Then when I made a silly bogey on the 13th, I thought my chance had gone. But luckily for me Horacio wasn’t able to pick up any shots over the last few holes, and I made a very good par putt on the 18th hole in regulation, which gave me confidence for the play-off.
“It was great that I had two putts to win, because it’s been a very stressful day so I didn’t need any more pressure at the end! At one point it looked like Horacio’s putt might fall in, but it was going very fast. If it hadn’t hit the hole, it might’ve rolled off the green! I felt a little sorry for him, because he’s played very well this week, but today it was my turn.
“I’m sure we’ll have a little party back home in Spain next week, and hopefully my nephew can make it so that we can celebrate both our wins in Sicily. I think he gets even more nervous when I play than when he does, but he can relax now. We own Sicily!”
Carbonetti’s consolation was a cheque for €25,000 which moved him up to 38th on the Order of Merit, and therefore guaranteed him a place in season-ending OKI Castellón Senior Tour Championship.
Third place went to Canadian Graham Gunn, whose level par round of 72 meant he finished on four under par, whilst American Jerry Bruner, Horacio Carbonetti’s brother Luis, England’s Carl Mason and Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn all finished in a tie for fourth place on three under par.
The only other player to finish below par was England’s Tony Allen, whose round of 68 – the lowest of the day – catapulted him from 24th place to eighth on one under.
Earlier in the day, home hero Costantino Rocca delighted the locals by scoring an ace on the second hole with an eight iron.