Graeme Clark started his journey back to the Challenge Tour with a comprehensive three stroke victory at The Virgin Atlantic 25th Anniversary Classic at Marriott Tudor Park in Kent.
The 2007 PGA EuroPro Tour Order of Merit champion (pictured) had a tough time when he made the step up to the second tier of European golf in 2008, but after following opening rounds of 64 and 63 with a final round of 66 to claim a three shot win at 17 under ahead of Ian Keenan, the 33 year-old said he was ready to have another crack at the big time.
“It’s a real confidence boost to know that I can still get into the winner’s circle,” said the Doncaster GC man. “If I can get onto the Challenge Tour again I now know how I have to go about things so I will be playing the rest of the EuroPro Tour events and aiming for that top five.”
Clark held a two stroke lead at 13 under par going into the final round and extended that to three shots thanks to an eagle at the eighth. Both players birdied the tenth, but then Keenan birdied 11, bogeyed 12 and then birdied the 13th, where Clark dropped his first shot of the tournament to close the gap to just one stroke.
But Clark dug in and responded with a birdie at 14 and when Keenan dropped another shot at the 16th, Clark was ready to collect the £10,000 winner’s cheque.
“I carried on from the last two days really, not holing as many putts as the first two days put I’ve been hitting it really well recently,” said Clark, who climbs from 19th to third in the money list.
His playing partner and fellow 33 year-old collects £5,000 for his runners-up spot – something that he says will spur him on to go one better when the Tour moves to Wychwood Park in Crewe next week.
“I knew he’d be a tough opponent today and that getting past him would be hard, but that second place helps me,” said Keenan. “Obviously I need to get a win to really get up the rankings but hopefully that will come next week at Wychwood.”
“We had a good thing going out there – it was a lot of fun playing with Graeme,” said the man from Hoylake. “We were really going for it – going into the 14th I had the honour and I thought the tide might turn as I hit the fairway and it looked like he might drop a shot. But in the end, he made four, I made five and that was that really.”
Third place went to Elliot Saltman (Aegon) who recovered well from an up-and-down front nine to finish 12 under for the tournament. Saltman drove the green at the par four third and sank his putt for an eagle but then followed that with a double bogey at the fourth, and another bogey at the seventh seemed to have ended his chances of placing high. But on the back nine the Scotsman showed how destructive he can be with three birdies and an eagle in four holes from the 11th seeing him card a final round of 66.
Paul Dwyer (Clitheroe) led after the opening round and ended up in fourth spot at 11 under after also shooting 66, one stroke ahead of Nicky Harris (Whitefield GC) in fifth whose 67 meant he ended on ten under. Saltman’s playing partner Daniel Gaunt (Burhill GC) took sixth spot at nine under after a level par final round.
Steven Parry (Bolton) recorded the lowest round of the day to lead a group of seven players tied in seventh spot at eight under. Parry’s round of 63 meant he was the fourth player to equal the course record this week, although he missed a five-footer on the last for a 62. Barry Hume carded a six under round of 64 to join Parry, with James Gill (New Zealand), Matthew Mills (Wentworth), Calvin O’Carroll (UNIFAB.co.uk), Simon Lilly (Wellingborough) and Martin Sell (Golf Analysis Ltd) completing the group.
The PGA EuroPro Tour moves to Wychwood Park in Crewe next week, with the ABC Solutions UK Championship beginning on Tuesday 11 August.
Date Posted: 06/08/09, 5.45pm