Emilio Cuartero Blanco secured an emotional maiden victory on the European Challenge Tour after defeating Oscar Lengden on the third play-off hole of the Stone Irish Challenge.
The final round of the tournament, which was being played at Headfort Golf Club, was cancelled as heavy rains water-logged the course, rendering it unplayable.
With Cuartero Blanco and Lengden sharing the 54-hole lead on 11 under par, a play-off — held on the par three 17th hole— was required to determine a winner.
Both players carded two-putt pars on the first extra hole, and on the second, both nearly chipped in after missing the green. The third time around, Cuartero Blanco holed a birdie putt from 12 feet, and when Lengden’s birdie effort from ten feet burned the edge, the Spaniard secured his first victory in five seasons on the Challenge Tour.
“I remember the first year I got onto the Challenge Tour five years ago, I thought I was going to win a couple, maybe three and get to the European Tour,” he said “Then I got shocked with reality. I’ve been close before, but now, it’s just one of those feelings I can’t describe.
“I just want to go home and hug my loved ones. It’s just a tournament I know, and life goes on, but I’m definitely going to enjoy this one. I don’t know what to say really.
The victory dramatically alters the course of the season for the 28-year-old, who now moves to 41st on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, and gains entry into the limited-field Hainan and Foshan Opens.
“This was going to be the last tournament of the year for me,” he said. “I was 100th on the Rankings, and it was one of those years where you battle and the scores don’t go the right way, but you know you’re doing things well.”
The win came so suddenly for Cuartero Blanco, that he will forgo the Hainan Open in order to obtain the necessary travel visa for the Foshan Open, where he will then try to earn a spot in the season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final, which is reserved for the top 45 players on the Road to Mallorca.
“I don’t even know how I played this good with all the swing changes I’m doing. I was just trying to play golf and have no back pain, and I ended up winning.
“Maybe it’s because I’m having fun, but I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it too much I just want to enjoy it. Now I know I can win. I know it’s not four rounds and all that, but a win is a win.”
Cormac Sharvin, who finished in a tie for fifth on eight under par, collected the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the low-Irishman at the Stone Irish Challenge. The Dublin resident moved to fifth on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and has joined the race to finish the season as Challenge Tour Number One.
The Challenge Tour now travels to China for two limited-field events, which begin with the Hainan Open at Sanya Luhuitou Golf Club in Donghai Bay, China from October 17-20.