The Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, by its very nature, guarantees drama and excitement as well as tears and joy with the top 45 players battling for the 20 available European Tour cards on offer through the final Rankings.
The 2009 edition was another wonderful example of sport at its most dramatic as Goya, who won the very first event on the 2008 Schedule, made a sensational birdie on the final hole to secure the €48,000 first prize from the English duo of Richard Bland and John E Morgan.
With the three main protagonists of the final round playing together in the last match of the day, the Challenge Tour’s annual climax simmered deliciously before exploding on the back nine of the beautiful San Domenico Golf.
Bland and Morgan had been jostling for the lead with Goya and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello throughout the final round. When Goya bogeyed the 12th to fall two strokes behind the English duo it looked like a three-way fight for the title but the Argentine had other ideas.
Birdies on the 14th and 15th ensured Goya got himself back into contention but he knew he had to pick up at least one more shot to force a play-off. His birdie on the 17th put him level with Bland but, by this point, Goya – fuelled by adrenaline and self belief – was sensing victory.
He secured the win with a touch of short-iron genius, planting his pitching wedge approach to the 18th green to within inches of the hope to set up the tap-in birdie that would see him take the title.
“My approach shot on the last was so important,” beamed Goya after picking up the €48,000 winner’s cheque. “I didn’t want to leave myself a long putt, because my heart was beating so fast even though it was from less than a metre!
“I was 18th in the Rankings coming into the week, so I knew I needed a big week and I got it. I would’ve been happy to finish in the top 20, so to finish in the top 10 is fantastic, because it means I get a really good card for next year. Now I’ve got my European Tour card, I’m going to start preparing for next year – after the celebrations!”
While Bland was understandably disappointed to finish second, Morgan was celebrating the fact that, by winning €24,950, he had barged his way back onto The European Tour by leaping ten places on the Rankings, from 27th to 17th.
While Goya, Morgan – and of course Number One Horsey – struggled to contain their joy, a thought must be spared for Switzerland’s Raphaël De Sousa, the man who Morgan knocked out of the top 20.
There are always losers at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, and De Sousa, along with Marco Ruiz of Paraguay who finished in the horrible position of 21st in the Rankings, will be hurting most of all.
These things are, however, decided over the course of the season and no-one can deny Horsey the deserved acclaim he will receive in setting a new total prize money record with his season’s haul of €144,118.
Horsey’s excellent performance was a fitting end to a sensational season for the young Englishman, who will lead the Challenge Tour’s 20 graduates onto The European Tour and The Race to Dubai.
In finishing seventh at San Domenico, Horsey eliminated the threat of a late Rankings charge from his closest challengers Taco Remkes and Gary Lockerbie in a performance that encapsulated his outstanding year in its controlled and assured nature.
The 23 year old’s immediate reward for winning the Rankings is a place alongside the likes of Mickelson, Harrington and Garcia at the forthcoming HSBC Champions in China, the first event on the inaugural Race to Dubai.
“I can pack my bags for China now…can’t wait!” smiled Horsey. “It was a great end to a fantastic season. I didn’t really know what I had to do today, because I wasn’t sure what the other guys near me in the Rankings were doing.
“I was obviously trying to chase the leaders, but in the back of my mind I was just trying to make sure I got the Number One spot, because that was my aim when I came here. So I’m very, very pleased with the day.”
FINAL CHALLENGE TOUR RANKINGS – THE 20 QUALIFIERS TO THE 2009 EUROPEAN TOUR INTERNATIONAL SCHEDULE (all figures in Euro)
1 David HORSEY (ENG) 144,118
2 Gary LOCKERBIE(ENG) 138,508
3 Taco REMKES (NED) 137,330
4 Gareth MAYBIN (NIR) 117,719
5 Estanislao GOYA (ARG) 113,336
6 Seve BENSON (ENG) 111,529
7 Alessandro TADINI (ITA) 106,892
8 Richie RAMSAY (SCO) 106,655
9 Steven O’HARA (SCO) 103,211
10 Jeppe HULDAHL (DEN) 96,818
11 Klas ERIKSSON (SWE) 96,514
12 Alexandre ROCHA (BRA) 93,684
13 Richard BLAND (ENG) 92,645
14 R CABRERA BELLO (ESP) 89,846
15 Wil BESSELING (NED) 89,358
16 Marcus HIGLEY (ENG) 85,946
17 John E MORGAN (ENG) 77,253
18 Christian NILSSON (SWE) 75,200
19 Antti AHOKAS (FIN) 74,866
20 Stuart DAVIS (ENG) 67,104