Englishman Oliver Wilson took a huge step towards securing European Tour playing privileges for next season after moving into the top 15 of the Road to Ras Khaimah with his second European Challenge Tour win of the season at the Monaghan Irish Challenge.
The 38-year-old, who was part of Ryder Cup Team Europe in 2008, started the final round one shot off leader Niklas Lemke but immediately surged ahead with three birdies in his opening four holes. Wilson bogeyed the fifth to drop back level with Lemke, but the Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson champion got ahead once again after picking up his fourth shot of the afternoon on the seventh before adding another on the par five 15th.
A bogey on the 16th left him two shots ahead of clubhouse leader Marco Iten, with Lemke falling back after a double bogey on the same hole. Wilson calmly parred out the remaining holes to get his hands on silverware for the second time this season and jumped from 38th to 15th in the Road to Ras to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings to increase his chance of returning to the European Tour.
The Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final is now only three weeks away and the top 45 players on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings will go head-to-head at Al Hamra Golf Club from Wednesday October 31 to Saturday November 3 in a bid to secure one of the 15 coveted European Tour cards available for next season which are awarded to the top 15 players in the Rankings following the conclusion of play.
“I’m feeling pretty pumped after that,” said Wilson after his triumph at Concra Wood Golf Club. “It was hard work out there and a proper grind. We knew it was going to be tough and there was strong cross-winds everywhere.
“I was delighted to come through it and I could’ve made it easier for myself but instead made it a little tricky when I was coming down the stretch. This course is such a good test that I had to keep hitting good shots and I managed to do that, and it wasn’t too stressful coming up the last.
“My par save on 11 was pretty big. I hit a lovely shot in, but it went through the wind and I missed it long, which was a disastrous miss, but I managed to get up and down. That felt pretty big to keep the momentum going. I played nice after that and had a chance on the par five, but played reasonably solid coming in, missing just a few putts on a couple of greens. Overall, in those conditions, I played really well.”
Iten’s final round 68 saw him seal second place which moved him up from 63rd to 37th in the Rankings and all but seal his spot at the season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.
Lemke’s final round 73 knocked him out of contention for the title, but the Swede’s third-place finish was the highest of the season and moved him from 73rd to 52nd in the Rankings, edging closer to the top 45 on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah.
Meanwhile, some of the best amateur golfers in the UAE will tee it up at the stunning Al Hamra Golf Club on Saturday 13 October for the hotly anticipated Golden Ball Grand Final as they bid to seal a coveted spot alongside the stars of the future at the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final Pro-Am.
The 2018 Grand Final looks set to be the best yet with competitors up and down the country posting some terrific scores in the qualifying rounds, with the top three Grand Final finishers guaranteed a spot in the Pro-Am. Namir Al Naimi will be a player to look out for after booking his Grand Final ticket by scoring 33 Stableford points at Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club’s qualifier. “I’m looking forward to the Grand final and the challenge awaiting at Al Hamra,” he said. “Thanks to the sponsors for providing us amateurs with a great competition and the opportunity to tee it up alongside the next generation of golfing stars.”
Haitham Mattar, CEO Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development said:
“It’s been fantastic to see how many of the UAE’s clubs and golfers have got behind our Golden Ball Series once again. This initiative offers an exceptional prize that will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for any golf lover. Our Grand Finalists are set for a day of great golf at the stunning Al Hamra Golf Club and will be treated to a course that is in pristine condition ahead of the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final. We send our congratulations to all our qualifiers and wish them the best of luck in what is set to be an amazing Golden Ball Grand Final.”
The Challenge Tour now travels to Sanya City, China for the Hainan Open, which will be the 26th event on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah.