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.”
FJ WINS, YOU WIN: Click here for your chance to win a pair of FJ Sport shoes & StaSof glove just like Simon Thornton used en route to victory in the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open.
No purchase necessary, Void where prohibited, Open to UK & Ireland residents 18 years or older, FJ Wins, You Win offered from 9.01am on the 10th 2013 to 11.59 on the 13th June 2013.
This week our travels take us to Aa St Omer GC,St Omer,France:
Joost Luiten overcame difficult playing conditions in Atzenbrugg to secure his second European Tour victory in style as the Dutchman claimed the Lyoness Open by two shots.
The 27 year old shrugged off a shaky start and a one-hour weather delay to card a closing 71 at Diamond Country Club to finish 17 under par and win by two shots.
Luiten (FJ Sport BOA) began the day with a three shot lead but saw that instantly reduced to one when he three-putted the opening hole.
A birdie on the second quickly repaired the damage, but Luiten's lead was back to one again when France’s Romain Wattel (FJ ICON & StaSof) carded his fourth birdie of the day at the sixth.
The Dutchman, whose previous victory came in the Iskandar Johor Open in 2011, responded with a two-putt birdie on the par five seventh, and when Wattel failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker on the ninth, the gap was back to three shots once more.
Play was suspended due to the threat of lightning in the area with Luiten on the 14th tee, but he showed no ill effects when it resumed an hour later and struck the decisive *** on the 16th, where his approach almost span back into the hole and set up an easy birdie.
Speaking about the weather delay, Luiten added: "At that time I wanted to play on but it was good to have a break for me because I wasn't playing really well so I just had some food and tried to focus again and went out there and tried to make pars and sneak in a birdie and that's what I did."
The World Number 137 – who will climb into the top 100 today declared:
"It's been a great week so I am really, really happy,"
"It was a long day, I started off with a bogey but I hit the ball nicely so I just wanted to focus on that, hit the greens, two-putt and make the others chase me."
"Unfortunately I made a few mistakes on the greens and didn't make a lot of putts, but in the end I was three clear after my birdie on 16 and that gave me a little bit of air. It's always nice to finish par, par and hold the trophy."
FJ WINS, YOU WIN: Click here for your chance to win a pair of FJ Sport shoes just like Joost Luiten used en route to victory in the Lyoness Open.
Amoungst the downpours in Austria this week we are at Diamond CC in Atzenbrugg:
Mikko Ilonen cruised to a three shot victory at the Nordea Masters, winning his first European Tour title for six years at Bro Hof Slott.
The 33 year old, whose two previous victories came in 2007, the latter in this event, started the day two clear and an imposing display meant the gap was not closed, despite a hugely impressive 12 under weekend total from FJ Apparel Ambassador Bernd Wiesberger (FJ Sport & StaSof)
After turning in 34, Ilonen (FJ ICON & StaSof) then birdied the 11th from 12 feet, before his only set-back with a three-putt bogey at the long 12th. A sublime chip to three feet at the next quickly atoned for that error, and there were no dramas over the closing stretch.
A three under par 69 ensured a 21 under total and three shot victory margin for the Finn.
“It’s pretty special. I could feel a lot of support from Finland, especially today," said Ilonen,
Asked about his bogey at the 12th, he added: “I just got ahead of myself with the first putt. I’ve said for weeks now it doesn’t really bother me if I make a bogey because I know I can make it up and it was the first time I went for the 13th in two.”
Ilonen had been a runner-up in Morocco before finishing second to Brett Rumford in China already this season, and was pleased with the way he dealt with those disappointments.
“To bounce back this soon is really good,” he continued. “It’s really satisfying, but the show I saw in China - I didn’t lose the tournament, Brett won it, so hats off to him.
“Obviously I’ve been waiting for this moment for a few weeks now. People have been expecting me to win but most of all I’ve been expecting myself to win, so to pull it off here after those second places is very satisfying.
Last week’s winner Matteo Manassero (DryJoys Tour & StaSof) put in another admirable performance finishing tied fourth. The Italian carded an ill-timed double bogey on the 18th green on Saturday, however, which left him with too much to do in his final round.
FJ WINS, YOU WIN: Click here for your chance to win a pair of FJ ICON shoes and a StaSof glove just like Mikko Ilonen used en route to victory in the Nordea Masters.
No purchase necessary, Void where prohibited, Open to UK & Ireland residents 18 years or older, FJ Wins, You Win offered from 9.01am on the 3rd 2013 to 11.59 on the 6th June 2013.