Sam Hutsby came out on top in a six-man play-off to secure his first European Challenge Tour title for over eight years at the Andalucía Challenge de Cádiz as the Irish contingent endured a disappointing final round.
Conor Purcell and Ruaidhri McGee began the day six strokes adrift in a tie for 12th, but though Portmarnock man Purcell would start brightly with birdies at one, two and four, back-to-back bogeys on five and six killed any momentum he’d gathered and after 10 consecutive pars, he’d sign off with a pair of closing bogeys to shoot one over and end the week tied for 28th at -8.
Brief though Purcell’s challenge was, McGee’s never materialised at all as he’d make one bogey and eight pars on his opening nine, before covering the back nine in +2 to finish on -6 and tied for 37th.
John Murphy fared slightly better in his closing round, but his one-under 71 was too little, too late with Saturday’s front nine doing the damage.
Englishman Hutsby carded a one under par final round of 71 to move to 15 under alongside Italian Filippo Celli, Denmark’s Nicolai Kristensen, Swede Jesper Svensson and Frenchmen Clément Berardo and Julien Sale at Iberostar Real Golf Novo Sancti Petri.
A dramatic play-off unfolded as Celli, Berardo and Kristensen fell at the first hurdle before Hutsby made par at the third extra hole to defeat Sale, who could only manage a bogey.
Hutsby, who won the 2014 Kazakhstan Open, was delighted to secure his second Challenge Tour title in Cádiz and admitted to feeling confident ahead of the extra holes having prevailed in a six-man play-off at the Second Stage of Qualifying School last year.
“I’m so emotional right now,” he said. “2014 was my last win on the Challenge Tour and most of the young guys coming through are so fearless. I got off to the worst possible start with a double-bogey on the first but I managed to get my head back down and use my experience to bounce back.
“I had to keep reminding myself that I was still in the tournament. When it went to a play-off I was quietly confident because I’ve won about 15 play-offs in my career. I’ve always been very confident in those situations, and I actually won a six-man play-off at the Second Stage of Qualifying School last year.
“I’ve got some amazing memories in the game, but this is right up there. We all hit really good shots in the play-off and I made a great putt. I’ve got a great record in Spain so I think I will have to start looking with my girlfriend at places to live over here.
“I hope to take a lot of confidence from this win. I’ve always said that the standard on the Challenge Tour is incredible and that is proved by the amount of guys that go on to do so well on the DP World Tour. It’s so easy to get down in this game and my season hasn’t been going the way I would have liked until now.”
Six-time Challenge Tour winner Ricardo Gouveia and South African JJ Senekal finished in seventh place on 14 under par, while 2019 Challenge Tour Number One Francesco Laporta and Spaniard Manuel Elvira were a shot further back in ninth.
Hutsby catapults to 21st on the Road to Mallorca Rankings on 326 points following his triumph, while Frenchman Ugo Coussaud still sits in pole position on 930 points.
The Road to Mallorca heads back to the Czech Republic for the Kaskáda Golf Challenge, taking place from June 15-18, 2023.