Benjamin Poke completed an emphatic six-stroke victory at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage to run away with the title as 28 players earned life-changing European Tour cards.
The Dane, who led from the second round at Lumine Golf Club, was in complete control throughout the marathon test, breaking 70 each day to post rounds of 67-67-69-67-69-64 and seal victory ahead of three-time European Tour winner Grégory Havret, who came second on 19 under par.
“To play on the European Tour is something that you always dream about when you are young, so to finally stand here with my card is unbelievable," Poke said. “Before this week I knew that I had developed my game a lot since last year. I was happy to reach the Road to Mallorca Grand Final and I was thinking that anything I managed to do this week was a bit of a bonus. I managed to keep that mentality all week and not get too far ahead of myself, just focus on the day in hand.
“I’m planning to celebrate this moment for a while. You work so hard and then there are times when you are struggling and it’s not easy, but you’ve got to get up and carry on and celebrate the good times when they happen.”
Poke, 27, has just completed his rookie season on the European Challenge Tour and will be joined on the top tier by his 18-year-old countryman Rasmus Højgaard, who overcame an opening-round 73 to finish Final Stage in a share of fifth place on 16 under par.
The promise of a thrilling conclusion to Final Stage was fulfilled again on the Lakes Course as American Sihwan Kim carded an eight under par final round of 63 to jump 38 places and finish the tournament with a European Tour card in hand, as he cemented a share of 17th place
Kim’s fellow American Johannes Veerman also completed an impressive turnaround, and after opening Final Stage with a pair of 74s, the 27-year-old came storming back to close with rounds of 67-67-66-66 to end the tournament on 14 under par, booking his ticket to the European Tour with a tied 13th place finish.
The greatest excitement was delivered by Rikard Karlberg, who holed a 50-foot putt on the 108th and final hole to finish in a tie for 25th place, picking up the last available European Tour card. The emphatic end to the gruelling tournament completed an emotional comeback for the Swede, who returned to professional golf in 2019 following a battle with a serious infection and depression.
Frenchmen Havret, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Adrien Saddier and Robin Sciot-Siegrist all booked their tickets to the European Tour at Final Stage, equalling the record for the number of French players to graduate from Qualifying School.
The 2019 European Tour Qualifying School was contested over 252 holes in three stages across 14 different venues. A record number of 1,063 entrants bid for one of the coveted European Tour cards, surpassing the previous record of 1,026 from 2017.