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JAMES Hepworth has held his nerve to claim his first ever victory on the PGA EuroPro Tour.
Hepworth, 35, edged out Daniel Gaunt in the first play-off hole to claim Â£10,000 and win the Galgorm Castle Northern Ireland PGA EuroPro Tour Open. More than 1,000 spectators watched the last round and they were treated to great entertainment as it was a tight ending between Gaunt and overnight leader Hepworth.
Hepworth had been in front since the end of the opening day but came up with his worst round of the competition on Friday. A dropped shot at the sixth looked to have proved costly, but there was late drama as Hepworth birdied the last to force a play-off. He then fired a birdie four at the first extra hole, while Australian Gaunt, the Order of Merit leader, could only claim a five.
â€œI was quite focused and did the business. I really enjoyed it,â€ said 35-year-old Hepworth. â€œI was a bit relieved to actually be in the play-off and at the start of the day all of the eyes were on me as everybody wanted me to slip up but it was alright in the end.
â€œIt has brought my own self-belief back as in the last few years I had a lost a bit of interest but Iâ€™ve worked hard and itâ€™s paid off.
â€œThe goal at the start of the season was to get on to the Challenge Tour and this victory means Iâ€™ve now got a chance of doing that.â€
Gaunt had been three shots behind at the start of the day but his second place finish means he collects Â£5,000 and extends his lead at the top of the Order of Merit.
Matt Allen claimed his third top ten finish of the month as he produced his best round of the tournament on Friday.
His last day score of 66 left him in tied third on -11 and comes after finishes of tied second at Longhirst Hall and tied ninth last week at Bovey Castle.
He was joined in third place by Englandâ€™s Gareth Shaw, competing in his first EuroPro Tour event of the season, as an eagle on the par-five third helped him to -11.
Ian Keenan continued his fine start to the campaign by ending in tied third for his fourth top 12 finish of 2010.
Jonathan Caldwell (Clandeyboye) was an early leader on day one but a poor second round saw his title hopes evaporate.
However, he ended the tournament well with a score of five-under on day three, aided by an eagle on the third to end in tied sixth.
Caldwell was joined in tied sixth by last weekâ€™s winner Craig Lee, England pair Gary Wolstenholme and James Webber and Irelandâ€™s Michael Collins.