On a day of drama at the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, it was Benjamin Hebert who wrote his name in the record books, thanks to an emphatic third win of the 2014 season.
He finished five clear of Jerome Lando Casanova at 12 under par thanks to a closing 69 on Saturday, a feat that ensured he became the first player in history to have won three times in a season on two separate occasions.
Few could question the serene way in which Hebert went about his business on the final day, posting five birdies to counter just two dropped shots to extend his lead as attention then turned to the battle for a place in an increasingly fluid top 15 on the Rankings and a spot on next season’s European Tour.
For much of the day it had looked like Lasse Jensen had done enough to earn his place amongst the graduating class, but a difficult run around the turn put paid to his chances and left the way clear for the charging Lando Casanova, who hit light speed on the final day in Dubai.
The Frenchman started the week with a 78 in the opening round to all but ensure a trip to next week’s Qualifying School Final Stage, but a fantastic run over the final three rounds saw him sign for a 69, and climb 25 places on the Rankings into 13th place.
It was a nervous wait though for Lando Casanova, thanks to a bogey at the 17th which had seen him drop out, but a birdie at the last saw him jump back in, and when Oliver Farr dropped a shot at the last, his graduation was secure.
As for his compatriot Hebert, he was just pleased to sign off the season in such a positive manner, as he prepares for a second crack at the big time next year.
“It is a perfect season end for sure. I played very well the last three months, but this is a great feeling. I practice hard and keep myself positive in the bad times, and now it is OK, and we will have a lot of fun now and then start practicing to improve my game for the European Tour.
“My game is much better than last time, but sometimes I still feel so-so on the course, and I have a few bad stretches which I want to fix. If I can sort this then I can perform well on The European Tour.
“It was a hard day, with the wind getting up at the end of the day, but I stayed focused with my caddie and played it shot-by-shot. I had some good birdies on 14 and 15 which gave me a good advantage and the last two holes I was just patient until the 18th.
“I want to keep my card next year on Tour. I have won six times on the Challenge Tour, but now I want to win on The European Tour. Winning three times in two different season has never been done before, but I would exchange all of those for one win on The European Tour.
“I’m going to keep it the same next year, stay focused and play my game and we’ll see what happens. I had a good winter last year, and I want the same this time around, and if I can do that then it will be OK for next year.”
Lando Casanova might sound like a fictional villain in a Disney movie, but the man with one of the best names in the game proved he is more than just an impressive moniker.
His form over the final 54 holes was nothing short of miraculous, and in every way deserving of a starting berth in The Race to Dubai for 2015.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it is the first time in my career I am happy to be second. The 18th watching Farr was the longest of my life, and really, I don’t know what to say as I can’t believe it. Maybe when I put my first tee in the first hole on The European Tour I will believe it.
“It feels great, but we’ll see how it goes next year. I’m so excited to get out there as soon as I can, and I can’t wait to get home and rest with my family and friends and stop golf for a while.
“For the moment I don’t care of the schedule, I just want to rest.
“I tried to stay in the present and the final few holes were not too difficult.”
Meanwhile England’s Andrew Johnston, who finished in ninth place in the tournament, was crowned European Challenge Tour Number One for topping the Rankings with total prize money of €181,115.
“It feels awesome,” said Johnston. “It’s been a great finish to the year here and it’s so good to finish Number One. Coming into this week I hadn’t practiced much because I was injured and it was quite a frustrating week so to finish top ten was good.
“I battled pretty well out there for the four days and never gave up so that was a good feeling.
“I never thought I would be in this position. You practice and you train hard but you don’t go into a season expecting to come out Number One.
“You want to have your separate goals as the year goes on, the first one was to get into the Rolex Trophy and then just to get to the Grand Final and then try get the card. But you never expect to be number one.”
Welshman Oliver Farr (73) finished third on six under par while Korea’s Byeong-Hun An (68) finished fourth on five under. Both will join Johnston and the rest of the Challenge Tour Rankings’ top 15 on The European Tour next season.