Jonathan Caldwell’s hopes of capturing a first tour win in two years disappeared early as veteran South African Darren Fichardt took the spoils at the Le Vaudreuil Challenge.
Starting the final day with a share of the lead thanks to back-to-back 67s, Caldwell bogeyed the second to relinquish top spot, and a second bogey at the par-5 eighth left an uphill battle for the Clandeboye man.
Unfortunately, another bogey at 10 – one of three on the back nine – effectively ended any hopes of an against the odds victory given Caldwell’s struggles thus far in 2023, and a birdie at 16 would be offset by two additional bogeys as he’d limp home with a four-over 76 that saw him drop to a tie for 14th at -6.
He’d join Niall Kearney on that number after the Dubliner had posted a closing round of level-par. Kearney will be equally frustrated however, as despite carding five birdies, including three in the first five holes, he’d round out the opening nine with back-to-back bogeys and he’d finish the round with a costly double bogey on the 18th.
Five-time European Tour winner Fichardt, who played in the final three-all alongside Caldwell and Welshman Oliver Farr, birdied just one of the opening nine, falling two behind Farr who birdied four with one bogey thrown in, and when the Welshman rolled in another birdie putt on the 10th, he lead by three.
A two-shot swing at the next, however, saw the momentum switch to the South African, and with the wind in his sails, followed up with two more birdies and an eagle on the following four holes, having the luxury of a two-stroke lead on the final tee and he’d close out with a par to secure his first win since capturing the Sunshine Tour’s Betway Championship almost three years ago.
“I haven’t won in a few years now and to come out here and win on such a beautiful, challenging golf course is awesome,” Fichardt said afterwards. “I’ve been working hard and have been playing pretty well but I’ve also been experimenting a lot.
“I was surprisingly very calm. I thought I could ease round in two under par today which I thought might get the job done, but I had to dig deep and I made a few really crucial putts. I’m very proud of myself.”
The South African was full of praise for Farr, admitting that they pushed each other all the way in Normandy.
“Oliver was playing very well and at one stage I was three back,” he added. “When you win a tournament you obviously want it to be easy, but when you have a battle like that, it’s so much more rewarding. I feel like I really won it, as it wasn’t given to me. Oliver definitely brought that to the day.
“I’ve been in this situation quite a few times and there’s no better way to get the job done, to show your opponent that you’re not falling off. You’re there on every single hole and you’re not going away.”
Italian Gregorio De Leo fired a six under par final round to finish in third place alongside Englishman Jamie Rutherford, with Scotsman Euan Walker, Italian Lorenzo Scalise and England’s Richard McEvoy, a former winner at Le Vaudreuil, sharing fifth place.