Shiv Kapur became the first Indian winner of the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club as he soared to a four shot victory which earned a return to The European Tour on a day of high drama in the race for graduation to the top tier.
The European Challenge Tour’s season finale never fails to produce fireworks and this season’s edition, held at the suitably spectacular Al Badia Golf Club by InterContinental for the first time, was no different.
Kapur’s glorious victory meant he skyrocketed into the crucial top 15 in the Rankings, from 20th to fourth, to create history as the first Indian to graduate from the Challenge Tour to The European Tour, while Jamie McLeary secured a rookie season on The Race to Dubai in similarly imperious fashion with a tied runner-up finish.
Andrea Pavan, meanwhile, brought his stunning season to a fitting end as the Italian claimed tied fourth place to wrap up the title of Challenge Tour Number One, following in the footsteps of the likes of Thomas Björn (1995), Henrik Stenson (2000), Edoardo Molinari (2009) and Tommy Fleetwood (2011).
On a day of ever-changing permutations, hypothetical what ifs and jangling nerves for many players in and around the brink of graduation to The European Tour, Kapur made sure that his impending return to the top tier was at least one nailed on certainty having begun the day four clear in Dubai.
Utilising the kind of nous and experience gained from seven years on The European Tour, he cruised to a bogey-free two under par final round of 70.
The only threat to his position at the top of the leaderboard came fleetingly early in the round as the New Delhi man’s playing partner Wil Besseling, needing a win this week to secure European Tour status, moved to within two shots of the top before falling back.
Kapur was delighted to have sealed the deal in such composed style and cannot wait to return to the top where he will go in search of a maiden European Tour title, having claimed the first and last Challenge Tour titles of the 2013 season.
“I’m really pleased,” said the 32 year old. “It was a tough week and I had to battle away. I’m very proud of myself to shoot a bogey-free round and once I did that the pressure was on the rest of the guys so I’m extremely happy.
“I made it a little hard on myself this year not playing as many tournaments as some other players on the Challenge Tour but I backed myself and told myself that if I played well enough I would make it back on to The European Tour.
“Sometimes when you plan these things and they don’t work out it looks like a great plan so I’m pretty pleased with how it worked out. It would obviously have been nice to have less pressure coming into this week but there is no better feeling than when you win.
“I have had five or six professional wins but given the circumstances and everything leading up to the week, this one is right up there with the best of them.
“I have spent seven years on The European Tour and I’ve wanted to get back there. It’s a great tour which is going from strength to strength and I cannot wait to get back. I’m really looking forward to the year.”