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An emotional Simon Thornton dedicated his maiden European Tour victory to his late father after the Irishman held his nerve to claim the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open title in a play-off and fittingly on Father’s Day.
Thornton (FJ Sport & StaSof) holed several tricky putts on the back nine but left his best till last on the final hole, as he drained a ten-foot putt to take it to extra holes.
Under the most intense of pressure, the 36 year old rolled it into the cup and clenched his fist in celebration as he signed for a one under par 70.
He kept his cool once again in the play-off, finding the fringe of the green, The Irishman then rolled a perfectly-weighted putt from 30 feet which slid just left of the hole, ensuring his par and most importantly the win.
“It’s so big for me,” said a tearful Thornton. “On father’s day too, he passed away three years ago and it still hurts, but they are happy tears today. This is dedicated to him.”
“I didn’t play particularly well today in perfect conditions but I got up and down when I had to and holed good putts.”
“I didn’t put myself in position very well so I was scrambling but my short game held up. I've been working hard on my short game for a couple of years now so I'm delighted. I changed my putter and my putting technique last week too so it all came together this week.”
“On the last putt – I had been saying to myself all day, if I'm going to make it easy for myself you need to try on every putt and make sure it goes where you want to hit it – so I just picked a line and willed it in and it dropped.”
Thornton’s rise is an incredible story of progression to the top of European golf against all odds, as he was a seven handicap golfer just over a decade ago.
Born in Bradford, England, he moved to Ireland to become an Assistant Professional at Royal County Down Golf Club before rising through the Irish professional ranks to the Challenge Tour and then The European Tour.
“Hopefully this is a stepping stone for me,” he said. “I’ll go home this week now and celebrate, take a week off, and then play in the Irish Open.
“Last year was a huge disappointment on The European Tour after getting there through the Challenge Tour.
“To come here and play like I did is incredible. What happens now with this category is fantastic; it’s mad how things have changed. It’s surreal.”