A late birdie blitz from Italy’s Stefano Mazzoli condemned Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell to a second-placed finish at the Alps Tour season opener, the Ein Bay Open in Egypt.
The 24-year-old, only playing this week on a tournament invite, certainly made the most of it with his finish as he gave himself a fantastic chance at claiming the win, but a superb finish from Mazzoli handed the Italian the title instead.
Tied for the lead walking off the 16th green, Purcell could only par his final two holes as former European Amateur champion Mazzoli picked up two birdies to finish at 14-under, two strokes clear of the Irishman.
It is still a fantastic week for Purcell, who will surely earn some more invites for the rest of the season on the back of this performance, which is all he can ask for after having to skip Qualifying School last year due to illness.
Having started the final day two shots back of five players – including Mazzoli – he would sign for a four-under 68 to give himself a great chance of claiming the trophy but ultimately Mazzoli had just too much by shooting the same score in round three.
The Italian’s fellow overnight leaders all fell away, France’s Pierre Pineau hanging in there but never making enough of a push in finishing with a 71, while Jack Floydd and Gregorio de Leo shot 74s and Davey Porsius a 75.
It left it down to a two-person shoot-out down the stretch, Purcell hauling himself up to 12-under thanks to back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th, which followed three more earlier in his round and a bogey at the ninth, while 25-year-old Mazzoli had started strongly with three birdies in his first six holes but then double-bogeyed the seventh.
However, the former Arnold Palmer Cup competitor bounced back with a birdie at 14 to tie Purcell, and his fine finish earned him the title, birdieing the 17th as Purcell three-putted for par and then adding another at 18 to finish two clear and claim his third Alps Tour win.
“It was particularly tough knowing I had to score probably a five- or six-under-par to gain the victory. But I’m happy with my score also because the weather got a little windier on the course,” said Purcell, who earned €3,940 for finishing second.
“I can’t complain about my game, even if I had the chance to score some more birdies. Congratulations to Stefano, who played a very solid third round here.”
Meanwhile, Gary Hurley also secured an excellent finish in his first event of the season as the West Waterford man racked up four birdies on his back nine on his way to a three-under 69 that saw him share seventh at eight-under.
Mallow’s James Sugrue will rue a string of three consecutive bogeys on the back nine as he signed for a one-under 71 to finish in a share of 25th at four-under, the same score Naas’ Jonathan Yates ended on after a final round 72.