A BOGEY at the final hole cost 19-year-old England amateur Tommy Fleetwood his chance of victory in the English Challenge in Essex and let his playing partner, Australian Daniel Gaunt, in for a first ever win on the European Challenge Tour.
The duo reached the par three 18th at Stoke by Nayland near Colchester level on 17 under par, and when both men found the middle of the green with their tee shots, a play-off looked odds on.
But when Formby Hall’s Fleetwood charged his birdie attempt four feet past the hole and missed the return, Gaunt was presented with a par putt from three feet to snatch the title with a 17 under par total of 271.
The reward for the man from Melbourne was a cheque for €24,000 and a one-year exemption on the Challenge Tour, whilst Fleetwood – who shared second place with Scotland’s Craig Lee – returned to the amateur ranks at the English Amateur Championship starting at the Little Aston and Sutton Coldfield clubs in Birmingham on Monday.
Fleetwood was disappointed at not becoming only the fourth amateur to triumph on the Challenge Tour, but he could at least take solace from the fact that he had exceeded all expectations.
He said: “I can’t really dwell too much on that final putt – having missed a short one for birdie yesterday, I think it’s fair to say that the 18th green wasn’t too kind to me over the weekend.
“All I was thinking of was holing that first putt to win the tournament, and I ended up running it past. I putted really well all day, but I guess you’re going to miss a short one sooner or later, and it’s just a shame it had to come at the last.
“I made enough birdies to win the tournament, but just didn’t manage to keep the doubles off my card. At least I now know I can compete with these guys out here, which obviously gives me a lot of confidence.
“Hopefully I can go one better at the English Amateur – if I play as well as I did here this week, I’ll be tough to beat. Then I’ll start preparing for life as a professional, and hopefully start earning some money. I’ve obviously missed out on a fairly tasty cheque here, but hopefully there will be other days.”
Fleetwood, opened with a 66 in the first round to share second place, two behind Gaunt then added a 69 to slip into a share of third lace at the halfway stage, still two behind the Australian with Scotland’s Callum Macaulay moving into second.
Dane Thorbjorn Olesen posted a third round 64 to take a four stroke lead over Fleetwood and Gaunt going into the final round but the Dane was ten strokes worse on Sunday, his closing 74 moving him down to fourth, a stroke behind Fleetwood and Lee.
Fleetwood’ closing 69 gave him a four round 16-under par total of 272 alongside Lee, who closed with a birdie.
Southport professional Lee Slattery, who is attached to Formby Hall, finished in a tie for 51st place on three under par 285 after rounds of 71-69-72-73.
Royal Birkdale’s Matthew Baldwin missed the cut after rounds of 73-71.