Eirik Tage Johansen claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour victory 18 years after making his debut by defeating Ugo Coussaud 2&1 in the final of the Andalucía - Costa del Sol Match Play 9.
The Norwegian hit a stunning approach shot from 227 yards to eight feet on the par five eighth hole at Valle Romano Golf before rolling in the eagle putt to win his first event on the circuit following a closely fought contest against Frenchman Coussaud.
The 37-year-old became a father to twins just two months ago, meaning victory in Estepona has changed his outlook on the rest of the year with his playing privileges for 2020 already assured.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s been a rollercoaster with the matches. It’s been match play all weekend and it feels amazing to be standing where I’m standing right now.
“It’s my first time winning on the Challenge Tour and it’s good fun to be winning and winning here. I’ve been practising in this area a lot so it’s fun to come back here and win.
“My season is a strange season because since December I’ve had to stop playing tournament golf because we’ve had twins.
“I was fortunate enough to come out and play last week and this week but now I have to go home for a couple of weeks, just to keep things organised back at home until my mother-in-law can come and stay with my wife and the kids again.
“It’s a little bit of a strange season so it’s been great to come and win because it eases up the rest of the year. I know even if I’m not able to play more than seven or eight events I’ll still have a place to play next year.”
Johansen had first defeated Scotland’s Connor Syme 2&1 in the quarter-finals on Sunday morning before earning a 1UP victory against Robin Sciot-Siegrist on the first extra hole after their semi-final had finished all square.
After also progressing through three rounds of match play on Saturday, the Norwegian emphasised the importance of staying in the nine-hole battles going into the eighth and ninth holes where matches could truly be won and lost with a scoreable par five followed by a difficult par three to finish.
“Going into eight and having eight and nine to play is a benefit,” he said. “I’ve been thinking that all weekend; being able to stay alive through seven means you’ve got eight where I’ve made birdies every day and feel comfortable doing that.
“I knew if he was going to beat me, he’d need to make eagle and on nine, anything can happen.
“I don’t know if it’s been getting crispier and crispier on the fairways or whether I was hitting the ball longer and longer throughout the weekend, but I had about ten yards shorter to hit every time I played the eighth.
“I had 227 yards to the stick with wind behind and I thought I could hit a five iron but decided to hit a four iron. You don’t want to be long but I wanted to get it up there and fortunately enough I was left with eight feet to win.”
Defeated semi-finalists Sciot-Siegrist and Benjamin Poke contested a third place play-off and it was the left-hander who earned the final place on the podium with a 1UP victory, strengthening the French success on the Challenge Tour this season following Antoine Rozner’s duo of victories and Robin Roussel’s triumph at the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open last week.
With victory in Spain, Johansen registers his first points of the season and leaps immediately to eighth on the Challenge Tour Rankings.