A closing round of 68 at the Portuguese Open was enough for 20-year-old Spaniard, Pablo Martin-Benavides, to make history by becoming the first amateur player to record a win in an official European Tour event.
In 1991 Phil Mickelson won in the USA as an amateur, but a memberof the unpaid ranks had not triumphed in Europe since 1962 when Dr David Sheehan of Ireland won the Jeyes Tournament at Royal Dublin ? long before the official formation of the European Tour.
Martin-Benavides (pictured) finished on -7, one stroke clear of France’s Raphael Jacquelin and four clear of a group comprising South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and British duo Graeme Storm and David Griffiths. Jacquelin applied considerable pressure to the winner down the stretch but the Spaniard held his nerve despite his rival making birdie on the final two holes.
Martin-Benavides’ achievement should not be devalued by the fact that most of Europe’s top pros were in the USA preparing for the Masters ? he had already shown his potential earlier in the season by making a cut on the US PGA Tour and is the current holder of the Jack Nicklaus award for the top player on the US college circuit, where he represents Oklahoma State University.
As a result of his win, Martin-Benavides will almost certainly climb to the top of the new amateur world rankings. If he decides to turn pro over the coming weeks then his win ensures a Tour exemption until the end of 2009. It appears, however, that such a decision is a long way off at the moment.
“Turning pro hasn’t even crossed my mind,” he said after celebrating the win (due to his amateur status the £96,000 first prize went to Jacquelin).
“I’ve already thought about it and I have to continue playing for Oklahoma State. They have given me so much and I want to repay them.”
PORTUGUESE OPEN – LEADING SCORES
Quinta da Marinha, Portugal
GB&I unless stated
-7 P Martin-Benavides (Spa)*
-6 R Jacquelin (Fra)
-3 G Storm, C Schwartzel (RSA), D Griffiths, M Kaymer (Ger)
* = amateur