Saturday, November 05, 2011

LEE CLINCHES EUROPEAN TOUR CARD BUT DOAK MISSES OUT

CHALLENGE TOUR REPORT BY NEIL AHERN
European Tour Assistant Press Officer
After a dramatic day at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, Craig Lee said he was “delighted” to walk out with a card for The European Tour in the bag after his tied 19th finish in Italy was enough to see him finish 14th in the Challenge Tour Rankings.
The Stirling man, pictured during the final round by courtesy of © Phil Inglis), shot a level par 71 on a much tougher day at San Domenico Golf, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, but the most nerve-racking moments of the day were yet to come as he waited in the clubhouse for other results to filter through.
Lee had a top 20 finish secured but was on the brink of missing out on a top 15 finish, which earns a better category for next year’s European Tour International Schedule, and proclaimed himself a happy and relieved man when the final Rankings were confirmed.
“It was a very tense day but I’m delighted to finish 14th in the end,” said the 34 year old afterwards. “It looked like it was touch and go for a while, but I’m over the moon.
“Originally I was looking for a top ten, but to finish 16th would have been a really bad end to a good year so I’m very pleased with myself now.
“Obviously my management were here keeping an eye on the Rankings and it was pretty tough for them as well, but it looks like everything’s going to be rosy in the garden.”
Lee once again started with a bogey, for the fourth day running, before a birdie on the third pulled him back level; but a bogey on the eighth hole meant he carded a one over par front nine of 35.
It was the windiest day of the week and the Scot did well to keep steady around the back nine, with eight pars and a birdie on the 15th hole earning him a 71.
Compatriot Chris Doak, meanwhile, missed out on the top 20, having needed a big finish to the season at the Mediterranean links in the Puglia region of Italy.
He shot a three under par round of 68 to finish nine under par for the tournament, in tied 15th, but it was not enough to elevate him into contention for a European Tour spot, and he stayed static in 36th position in the Rankings, the same position in which he started the week.
“They were tough conditions out there, so I’ll take the 68. It was a lot to ask to come in the top two, but I had been playing well all year so I didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t happen, I just never holed many putts.
“The year has been good all in all, my first full season on Challenge Tour so it’s good to get a full year under your belt, I’ve learned a lot. I’ll go to the European Tour Qualifying School now and hopefully get my card there and take it from there.
“I've been there a few times and qualified through Qualifying School in 2009. I missed by a shot last year too so I like the course, I score well there and if the putting works then there’s no reason why I can’t get my card there.”
Home hero Pavan edged his final day shoot-out with Tommy Fleetwood at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, but it was the young Englishman who ended the season as the Challenge Tour Rankings Number One, becoming the youngest winner in the 22-year history of the Challenge Tour.
On a day of high winds and even higher drama in Puglia, southern Italy, the Roman delighted the locals at San Domenico Golf, his home from home, with a one-stroke victory over Fleetwood, whose runner-up finish ensured he would usurp his compatriot Sam Little at the top of the Rankings.

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