A maiden professional win may have proved elusive but Conor Purcell had every right to feel happy after completing a podium finish at the $75,000 NEWGIZA Open, the first-ever MENA Tour by Arena event in Egypt.
The Portmarnock golfer had entered the final round just three shots shy of the lead and that’s where he remained despite posting a three-under par 69 to get to double-digits under par for the tournament.
In the end his 10-under total fell three shy of Frenchman and former European Tour swinger Sebastien Gros, and although there was disappointment when he walked off 18, with time to reflect, Purcell was more than content with his week’s work in Cairo.
“Yeah it was good – a nice quick week as well. I got in the day before, got straight into a practice round and I liked the course and played well all week so I’m happy,” said Purcell.
“I don’t like messing around too much at tournaments so it was nice to just get straight into it. I felt I’d prepared pretty well at home over the two weeks beforehand so I just got over, started playing well and rolled with it.
“It was great to be in contention. I had it going after about 11 holes and had a couple of sloppy mistakes on the back nine but I can’t be disappointed with finishing third considering I walked off the 18th feeling I’d left a few out there.”
In the end, Gros’ five-under par 67 and 13-under tally won out by two in another reminder, not that one was needed, of the standard required to win as a professional, regardless of the Tour.
“It seems like this Tour – the scores every week are great if you want to have any chance to win,” Purcell said. “Although it was a scorable course, 13-under through three rounds is still good going no matter where you’re playing.”
However, it’s on the MENA Tour that Purcell intends to remain for the foreseeable future as he looks to bank precious competitive rounds in paid company before seeking pastures new.
“I’m going to stick to the MENA Tour for the next few months. I want to keep sharp by playing a couple of events each month and then the plan is to head to Final Stage of EuroPro Qualifiers in April. By the time May hits, all going well I’ll hopefully have a few starts on the Challenge Tour too and just see where I am then in terms of a schedule.”
As for the step-up to the pro game from his elite amateur status, there are differences – his $5,000 third place cheque this week being one of them – but those differences are appearing off the course rather than on it which should bode well for a bright year ahead for the Dubliner.
“It is a bit different but I feel like I’ve kept myself in a good frame of mind and not really thought about that side of things,” said Purcell when I asked him if it’s nice to be now playing for financial reward.
“It’s more getting used to doing all the travel, mostly by yourself. It was great to have Conor O’Rourke and Rory McNamara out here this week but I travelled here myself so from that point of view it’s a little bit different.”
As for Rory McNamara, he traded three birdies with three bogeys for an even par round of 72 to grab a top-25 finish at four-under par.
Conor O’Rourke’s five-over par 36-hole total missed the cut ahead of the final round.
Full scoring HERE