Gareth Maybin has secured his place on the European Tour for next season with his maiden professional win on the Challenge Tour.
The Belfast man finished six shots clear of the field at the Quingdao Open in China yesterday, a start to finish victory which began with a magnificent ten under round of 62.
The win has shot him to first place on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, comfortably inside the qualifying point for his European Tour card with just five rankings tournament to go this year.
And to cap it all he was celebrating his 28th birthday.
“What a birthday - I’ll remember this one for a while. From tee to green, I played as well as I’ve ever played this week,” he said.
“My concentration and mental strength were also spot on. I was so focused on what I was doing, I didn’t really allow myself to think about winning until the 18th tee.
“I’m so delighted to have shot 19 under par, and ecstatic to have this trophy on my lap. The winner’s cheque will also come in handy, because I recently bought my first house in Belfast.
“But the most important thing is that I’ve guaranteed my European Tour card for next season, and I’m just itching to get out there now. You want to test yourself against the best in whatever sport you play.
“Damien McGrane and Darren Clarke have also won in China this year, so it’s obviously a happy hunting ground for the Irish. I’m sure I’ll have a few beers later, but the real celebrations will have to wait until after Kazakhstan next week.”
Although this was his first win, he has been remarkably consistent all season with nine top ten finishes in 17 tournaments on the Challenge Tour, six of them coming in his last eight events.
Having held a four shot overnight lead, Maybin extended his advantage with three birdies on the front nine and, though he dropped a shot on the 14th, he immediately recovered with a birdie on the next hole to effectively seal victory.
He closed with a four under round of 68 with just one dropped shot to make absolutely sure of the victory.
Six shots back in a tie for second on 13 under par were Sweden’s Klas Eriksson, the English duo of David Horsey and Gary Lockerbie, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Austria’s Roland Steiner.
The Ulsterman’s mastery of the course at Qingdao Huashan Golf & Resort was such that he only dropped two shots over the four rounds, and birdied every hole except the part three second and 17th.
Derry’s Michael McGeady, also a winner on the Challenge Tour this year, put in a good weekend’s work with rounds of 68 and 67 to take a share of seventh place, although he still has some work to do to get into the top 20 on the order of merit and avoid another trip to qualifying school. This week in Kazakhstan, with one of the biggest prize funds on the tour, could be crucial for him.
By earning his card via the top 15 rather than the top 20 on the order of merit, Maybin will have virtually full playing rights on the European Tour next season and will be teeing it up with Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell at events like the Irish Open, the British Masters and the Dunhill Links.