A closer look at the three golfers who won as amateurs on the European Tour
There have been three players in the history of the European Tour who have won as amateurs, and they all occurred in a span of just two years between 2007 and 2009.
Pablo Martin Benavides became the first to play his way in to the history books at the Estoril Open de Portugal in 2007, before both Danny Lee and Shane Lowry won as amateurs in 2009.
Pablo Martin Benavides: Estoril Open de Portugal (2007)
In 2007, Pablo Martín Benavides became the first amateur in history to win a European Tour event when he captured the Estoril Open de Portugal title.
Martin Benavides had announced himself on the world stage when he led the Canarias Open de España heading in to the final round as a 17 year old, but it was almost four years later that he achieved his crowning moment at the 1,145th event on the European Tour.
The 20-year-old Spaniard won in emphatic style, carding a final round bogey-free three under par 68 to record a one stroke victory over Raphaël Jacquelin, who had chipped in at the last for birdie to pile pressure on the amateur.
He began the final round two strokes behind former Oklahoma State University golf teammate Alex Noren, but as the Swede fell back it was playing partner Martin Benavides who claimed the title at Quinta da Marinha Oitavos Golfe.
“I am really happy and proud,” said Martin-Benavides, who was later ranked the Number One player in American College golf.
“The funny thing is that I go to Oklahoma State University, and Scott Verplank won as an amateur on the PGA Tour when he was studying there. My coaches have been giving me stick about that for the last three years. They kept telling that I was no good if I couldn’t win a pro event as an amateur! But it actually helped me a little bit, even though it was a joke it helped me.”
Prior to that, the previous best performance by an amateur in an official European Tour event was by Nick Flanagan at the 2004 ANZ Championship, when he tied third.
Danny Lee: Johnnie Walker Classic (2009)
At the age of 18 years and 213 days, Danny Lee became not only the youngest winner in European Tour history at the time with his victory at the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic, but also just the second player to win as an amateur.
The teenager, who had become the youngest U.S Amateur winner in August 2008, birdied his final hole for a closing five under par 67 at The Vines Resort & Country Club to finish one shot ahead of Ross McGowan, Hiroyuki Fujita and Felipe Aguilar on 17 under par.
The New Zealander had started the final round two shots behind McGowan and John Bickerton and remained in the chasing pack after three birdies and two bogeys in his first 12 holes, but quickly stormed in to contention with birdies at the 13th and 14th. He then made a big par save from 12 feet at the 16th and followed up with birdies at both 17 and 18 to win his first event.
"I was dreaming about winning but my goal was to make the cut after two rounds and to try to get into the top 20 or top ten,” Lee said afterwards.
"You know winning a European Tour event, it's pretty amazing what I've done."
Shane Lowry: Irish Open (2009)
Just 12 events after Lee captured his maiden European Tour title, Shane Lowry followed in his footsteps to become the third – and most recent – amateur to win on tour.
In front of home crowds and pouring rain, Lowry defeated Robert Rock on the third play-off hole at the Irish Open in 2009, becoming the first amateur to win on his European Tour debut and just the sixth player in history to achieve that feat on the European Tour.
It was a dramatic occasion at Baltray. The 22-year-old led at the half-way stage and held a share of the lead with Rock heading into the final round, and received a lesson in focus as he missed a four-foot putt on the 72nd hole to clinch his first title.
With a word of encouragement from Rory McIlroy, Lowry regrouped. Rock missed a chance from ten feet on the first play-off hole, and after they halved the second with birdies, it was Rock who failed to save par at the third attempt. For Lowry, it meant a tap in for victory.
“I can’t describe how I feel,” Lowry said at the time. “I had an invite to play here and just wanted to make the cut. But after I shot 62 Friday, I felt I could win.”
Lowry, who went on to win the Open Championship at Royal Portrush ten years later in 2019, said last year of his win: “As long as I live it will be my greatest achievement in golf”.