Sussex tour pro Marco Penge produced a dominant display on the final day of the Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos to secure a maiden win on the Challenge Tour.
Penge, who started the day one stroke behind overnight leader Andrew Wilson, carded a two-under-par final round 70 in testing conditions, to go with rounds of 65, 68 and 69, to reach 16 under for the week. He finished four shots clear of Italian Lorenzo Scalise and American Julian Suri who shared second on 12 under.
The 25-year-old from Horsham climbs 42 places to 19th in the Road to Mallorca rankings with just four events of the season remaining. With the top 20 after the season-ending Grand Final securing promotion to the DP World Tour, Penge was delighted to win at such an important time of the year.
“I don’t think I realise what I’ve just achieved,” he said. “I’m absolutely buzzing. I feel like my game has been trending in the right direction for quite a while. I feel like I’m a lot better player this year than I was last year, but the results weren’t showing that. You don’t win much in golf, but when you do, there isn’t a better feeling. Promotion to the DP World Tour is what I’m playing the game for. If you can win on the Challenge Tour, you can win on the DP World Tour in my opinion. Five weeks ago I was 84th in the rankings and I was a little bit worried thinking about my card and thinking about what I’m going to do. I had to keep telling myself not to think like that, but to look forward and here we are.”
Penge started the day one stroke off the lead and despite bogeying the third hole, back-to-back birdies at the 6th and 7th holes saw him hit the front for the first time. He extended that lead with a birdie at 10 with the chasing pack unable to keep pace. A bogey at 15 followed but a birdie on hole 17 made sure of a maiden title.
His win comes as part of a memorable three-month period which has also seen him get married and tee it up in The Open at Royal Liverpool. He believes the second of back-to-back appearances in The Open helped prepare him to take advantage when in the lead.
“When I played in The Open last year, I was so nervous and really struggled mentally,” he added. “This year I missed the cut but I came off and was so pleased with how I managed myself, and that helped me here today. I’ve been working really hard with my coach on the mental side of the game. Golf is a constant battle and you think all sorts when you’re in the position to win, but to actually do it is special.”
Six players finished in a share of fourth place on 11 under, including Andrew Wilson, James Allan, Oliver Farr, Stuart Manley, Manuel Elvira and Félix Mory. Ugo Coussaud returned to the top of the rankings with a 29th place finish in Portugal, Scalise climbed to third place and Elvira to fourth, with Manley moving up one place to tenth.