It wasn’t the final round that Ruaidhri McGee had hoped for but his one-under par 71 ensured it was still a week well spent at the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
The Rosapenna professional fired five birdies but he also dropped four shots around Samsun Golf Club, having only posted two bogeys over his previous 54-holes.
With McGee chasing victory heading into the final day, he eventually finished five shots off the winning mark in a share of 13th at 18-under par. He picked up a cheque worth €3,300 for the performance and 3,300 valuable world ranking points to go with it.
Scoring proved much tougher on the final day in Turkey and Conor O’Rourke was another who struggled to replicate his numbers from the first three days. He signed for an even par 72 to close out a beneficial week in the sun after his pre-season preparations were hampered by a wrist injury that he picked up on the Mediterranean Tour.
O’Rourke finished in a share of 36th at 12-under par and earned €1,260 for his work that should just about cover the 26-year old’s week in Samsun.
The day belonged to Connor Syme who claimed his first European Challenge Tour title in style as he held his nerve to defeat Francesco Laporta in a play-off to triumph at Samsun Golf Club.
The duo played in the same group together for the second successive day and both carded five under par rounds of 67 to reach a 23 under par total, meaning extra holes were required to determine a winner.
Returning to the 18th hole, both players found the fairway with an iron off the tee before Syme hit a sensational seven iron approach to five feet and subsequently holed the birdie putt to win the first Challenge Tour Rankings event of the season.
The 23-year-old was showered with water in celebration by his compatriots after securing victory and he believes this win justifies his decision to play in Turkey, and not in Morocco at the Trophée Hassan II.
“It’s massive, I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said. “A few people might have been thinking why I hadn’t gone to Morocco this week so it was good to justify my decision to come here and win. I’m absolutely delighted and it sets me up for the season so hopefully it’s just the start.
“Of all the holes, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to play 18 because I’ve not really got a club for it. I’ve got a five wood in the bag this week but that brings the bunker into play off the left, so I just had to hit four iron.
“I had 190 yards in regular play and it was right in between and eight and a seven for me because it’s a little bit down breeze, so I had to hit eight and try and draw it and didn’t quite get it right, so I holed a good putt for par.
“There in the play-off, I had 196 yards and it was very quick, I just pulled seven because it was the shot I’d been practising on the range and it was the right shot at the right time, so I’m delighted.”
With players shooting rounds of 11-under par and 10-under par in the first three days, the course setup team set some testing pins for the final round, meaning scoring was more moderate and suited Syme’s game plan.
“The scoring has been crazy low the whole week and I had a feeling that I needed to get to 25-under par,” he said. “That was my target and I just wanted to play my own game but it’s just so difficult with the big leaderboards and you see people aren’t pushing as much as you possibly thought.
“I thought I had to get to 25-under par. The last few holes are challenging. I honestly thought last night that I was in the perfect position because the way the course is it’s so difficult to keep pushing all the time.
“When you’re ahead, it’s probably hard to keep pushing on so I was in a good position where I wasn’t sleeping on a lead. I was there still being able to shoot at a number and I was able to do that.
“I got a bit unlucky on 14 to make six; I was inches away from having a good opportunity to make birdie but I composed myself and made a really good birdie on 17 to give myself a chance.
“It was great to play with Francesco as well; we shot the same score and couldn’t be separated playing together two days in a row, so it was good that we finished with a birdie there to separate us.”
Dutch duo Wil Besseling and Darius van Driel shared third place on 22 under par following respective rounds of 65 and 67, while Mark Flindt Haastrup, who started the day in second place, and three-time European Tour winner Grégory Havret came tied fifth on 21 under par.
Overnight leader Adrian Meronk posted a one over par round of 73 to finish in a tie for seventh alongside English duo Gary Boyd and Matthew Jordan.
With victory in Turkey, Syme jumps straight to the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings with 32,000 points, while Laporta is second with 22,000.
The Challenge Tour now heads to Spain for the Challenge de España at Izki Golf, Urturi.
Full Scoring HERE