It proved to be an overwhelmingly successful week in Italy for Ireland’s Ruaidhri McGee, Michael Hoey and Gavin Moynihan on the latest leg of the Challenge Tour.
In-form McGee raced home in just 63 strokes to return the low round of the tournament at the Italian Challenge presented by Cashback World.
The Rosapenna man fired eight blemish-free birdies for the eight-under total, remarkably failing to pick up a gain on all three of the par-5s in the process.
Still, his stunning golf was good enough for a tied 4th finish at 14-under-par, just three shy of winner, Sebastian Soderberg.
The result sees McGee pick up a cool cheque worth € 15,000 for his efforts as he makes the leap into 33rd spot on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings.
And the good news didn’t end there for Ireland because, as they had done all week, both Michael Hoey and Gavin Moynihan mirrored each other’s scoring as they signed off on their Italian job with four-under-par 67s.
68,68,68,67 meant a share of 7th spot at 13-under-par for the pair who collected cheques worth € 7,560 for their troubles, with both players making a timely return to form of late as the season gathers pace.
It was ultimately Sebastian Soderberg’s week however, as he claimed his second European Challenge Tour victory after carding a six-under-par final round of 65 in Italy.
The Swede last won in 2017 at the Barclays Kenya Open and started the final round one shot behind Emilio Cuartero Blanco. However, he carded his third sub-70 round of the week to win by a stroke and become a two-time Challenge Tour champion.
The 27-year-old started the day with back-to-back birdies to join the early pacesetters at the top. He gained another shot on the sixth hole in reply to his only bogey of the day, as he kept the pressure on the leaders; Rosapenna’s McGee being one of them after he set the clubhouse target at 14-under-par.
With work to do after the turn Soderberg called upon his experience as he holed three successive birdies to move out in-front in the Sardinian sun. He passed McGee’s early target but Eirik Tage Johansen, who led during the opening round, equalled the low round of the week and finished on 16-under-par to tie with Soderberg, who still had three holes to play.
The Swede refused to settle for his second runner-up finish of the season as he birdied the 17th and two-putted for par on the final hole to be crowned champion. After an extremely hot week with gruelling conditions on the final day, Soderberg was delighted to come out on top.
“I played some nice golf today and it feels amazing to win,” he said. “It was a struggle to focus out there in the heat, which kind of helped, because I was so focussed on eating, drinking and walking with a wet towel. I only thought about what score I was on towards the end because I was so focussed on getting in.
“I didn’t look at the leaderboard all day. I was playing well, and I didn’t want to do anything to change that. I figured 16 or 17 under would win it because there were a lot of birdie chances out there. After I holed out on the 17th I took a peak at the leaderboard and knew I needed to par for the win, which felt amazing.
“To win on a Sunday and not lose means everything. The final day in Kenya hurt for a while, so that doesn’t matter anymore as this feels great.
“I haven’t put much thought into the rankings, but the win will definitely give me some more options. I won’t need to feel stressed to play events, so I’ll be able to pick my schedule a little better and make sure I’m ready for the end of the season.”
With the victory Soderberg returns to the top ten on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah to sit third – his highest position this season. Johansen’s runner-up position sees him move from 66th to 14th while Cuartero Blanco leaps 101 places to 37th.