Gouveia crowned King of Rome

Ricardo Gouveia claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title in dramatic fashion as the Portuguese defeated Germany’s Florian Fritsch in the third play-off hole to win the EMC Golf Challenge Open in just his seventh event.

The 23 year old only turned professional in July before making his debut in the paid ranks at the D+D REAL Slovakia Challenge, following a glittering amateur career in the American collegiate ranks where he studied at the University of Central Florida.

But he showed the nerves and determination of a seasoned champion when he came up against Fritsch in the play-off, having carded a four under par 67 to make up the two shot overnight deficit and force extra holes.

In a dramatic finale at the stunning Olgiata Golf Club, Gouveia almost holed a monster putt at the first time of asking for a birdie that would have sealed it before he produced a superb up and down, from a bunker 40 yards from the green, at the second extra hole for a bogey which was only matched by Fritsch after he missed a seven footer for a winning par.

Both players went right off the tee at the third play-off hole, this time the tenth hole after playing the 18th twice, but it was Gouveia who produced the wonder shot as a seven iron to five feet set him up for a winning birdie and a career-changing victory.

“I cannot even describe how good I feel right now,” said Gouveia, who moved to 49th in the Challenge Tour Rankings from 167th. “It hasn’t even sunk in yet how big this is for me.

“This was supposed to be my final event of the year and I got through Qualifying School First Stage so I was just looking at Second Stage of that and now everything changes.

“My goal for the week was just to try and get into the top 20 and that might secure some kind of category for the Challenge Tour next year. But I just focussed the best I could on playing good golf every day and I just played better and better every day.

“It was a really fun day, Florian is a great guy and so is Julien (Guerrier) so it was just really enjoyable and I’m glad I came out as the winner.

“I certainly didn’t feel like I had lost it after I bogeyed the last with a one shot lead because in golf you just never know what can happen. I had never been in this position before so it was a bogey that can be expected on your first time.”

Gouveia admitted he has surprised even himself with the rapid nature of his rise and, as he heads to his home town of Vilamoura next week for the Portugal Masters, he is ready to reset his goals and vie for a European Tour card at the end of the Challenge Tour season.

“This year I was just trying to learn what parts of my game I needed to improve to make it in the professional ranks,” he said. “But this changes everything and my goal now is to just try and make it to the Grand Final in Dubai and give myself a chance of a top 15 finish in the Rankings.

“I will sit down now in Portugal next week with my manager and go through my schedule but it’s all really exciting.”

Fritsch, meanwhile, was handed a huge consolation in defeat as his outright second place finish means he has virtually secured his European Tour card for next year.

The 28 year old, who carded a final round 69 in Rome, moved to seventh in the Rankings on €92,943 but will not travel for the Challenge Tour’s ‘Final Swing’ – the four lucrative season-ending events in China, Oman and Dubai – due to his fear of flying.

Scores:

275 R Gouveia (Por) 68 71 69 67, F Fritsch  (Ger) 70 67 69 69,
279 B Hebert  (Fra) 71 67 72 69, E Espana (Fra) 68 73 72 66,
280 A Tadini (Ita) 70 71 69 70,
281 J Guerrier  (Fra) 68 71 69 73,
282 M Delpodio  (Ita) 70 71 71 70, M Fitzpatrick  (Eng) 75 67 70 70,
284 A Hortal  (Esp) 68 72 72 72, P Edberg (Swe) 71 71 71 71,
285 M Jonzon (Swe) 69 73 71 72, P Price (Wal) 72 70 72 71, R Coles (Eng) 72 73 70 70, N Ravano (Ita) 70 76 68 71, O Farr (Wal) 70 74 68 73, T Sluiter  (Ned) 71 72 74 68,
286 L Jensen (Den) 71 70 73 72,
287 J Palmer (Eng) 68 77 72 70, M Tullo (Chi) 70 73 71 73, N Quintarelli (Ita) 71 72 74 70,
288 J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 74 70 70 74, A Bruschi  (Ita) 74 67 74 73, M Lafeber (Ned) 72 71 76 69, T Linard (Fra) 69 76 72 71,
289 C Hanson (Eng) 74 71 73 71, D Coupland (Eng) 70 73 73 73,
290 D Gaunt (Eng) 72 72 73 73, C Ford (Eng) 72 73 70 75, L Kennedy  (Eng) 72 74 71 73, C Brazillier  (Fra) 70 72 74 74, H Joannes  (Bel) 73 73 71 73, P Widegren  (Swe) 74 70 71 75,
291 J Stalter (Fra) 72 75 69 75, D Kemmer (USA) 75 72 71 73, P Oriol (Esp) 74 72 70 75, P Maddy (Eng) 71 71 74 75, R McEvoy  (Eng) 73 69 72 77,
292 J Edfors (Swe) 74 71 73 74, M Ford (Eng) 73 73 71 75, A Kaleka  (Fra) 67 72 71 82,
293 J Fahrbring (Swe) 75 72 71 75, J Sjöholm (Swe) 72 72 73 76, D Ulrich (Sui) 73 74 68 78, A Marshall (Eng) 72 74 70 77, A Velasco (Esp) 72 75 72 74, J Barnes (Eng) 74 72 78 69,
294 P Erofejeff (Fin) 75 70 74 75, A Snobeck  (Fra) 75 71 67 81, O Floren  (Swe) 73 70 73 78, S Henry  (Sco) 75 68 78 73, S Little (Eng) 68 79 75 72, J Elson  (Eng) 71 74 75 74, A Rota (Ita) 74 71 74 75, K Benz (Sui) 75 70 76 73,
295 R Russell (Sco) 73 72 76 74, P Relecom  (Bel) 73 74 73 75,
296 J Huldahl (Den) 69 73 75 79,
297 B Åkesson (Swe) 76 70 78 73, M Dobias  (Sui) 70 74 79 74,
298 T Pulkkanen  (Fin) 74 70 77 77, M Wiegele  (Aut) 80 66 73 79,
300 W Besseling  (Ned) 75 72 77 76,
301 M Cea (am) (Ita) 77 68 77 79,
** J Lando Casanova  (Fra) 70 71 71 DQ,

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