Hurly Long defeated Matt Ford on the second play-off hole at the end of a dramatic final day at the Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil to secure his first European Challenge Tour victory.
Golf Club Castelconturbia played host to a thrilling final day where the lead changed hands numerous times before Long, who posted a two under par round of 70, Ford and Marcel Schneider tied for first place on 13 under par after 54 holes, which meant a play-off was required to determine a winner.
Schneider bogeyed the first extra trip down the 18th, leaving Ford and Long to battle it out for a second time after both men recorded pars. Ford could not find the green with his approach shot and when his excellent chip narrowly missed, Long was left with a tricky downhill birdie putt which he duly converted to secure an excellent maiden victory.
“It’s a crazy feeling," he said. “I did not have a good start to the day at all. My plan was to just stick to the plan that I had been doing, not worry about the score too much and that served me well. It’s very surreal. When the putt went in, it was a bit of a shock.
“The weather’s just been incredible. There wasn’t much wind out there and the greens are receptive due to the heavy rain. If you drive it well and play aggressively off the tee, you’re going to have a lot of wedges in, the par fives are gettable and there are birdies out there for sure.”
The 25-year-old started the day two shots off the lead but after three bogeys in his first seven holes, his title quest was all but over, however a sensational run of five consecutive birdies changed the dynamic of his round.
“Making gains over those holes was my only chance to get back into the event and to win the event,” he said. “I got some momentum going. I missed a lot of putts early, I lipped out a lot of putts. I knew I was putting well and I went on a stretch where a few went in and that really helped me out.
“My focus was mainly to, I know it sounds cliché, but to control what I can control and have fun out there. I wasn’t happy when the putt to win on the last hole didn’t go in but it didn’t change my attitude. It was more of the same really.”
Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen carded a nine under par round of 63 - the low round of the week – to earn a share of fourth place on 12 under par with Ondrej Lieser of the Czech Republic and English duo Matthew Baldwin and Alfie Plant, both of whom held the lead at various points in the final round.
One shot further back on 11 under par in a share for eighth place was Sweden’s Christofer Blomstrand, Spaniard Mario Galiano Aguilar, Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia, Switzerland’s Benjamin Rusch, overnight leader Todd Clements and Englishman Scott Gregory, who recorded the first hole-in-one of his professional career at the par three 17th hole on his way to carding a four under par round of 68.
Long’s victory sees him jump 72 places on the Road to Mallorca Rankings to fourth place. The Challenge Tour will return to action next month with the Spanish Swing, consisting of the Andalucía Challenge de España and the Challenge de Cadiz.