Browne hoping luck continues in showcase final

STEPHEN BROWNE is hoping to take advantage of a blessing from the Golfing gods as he unexpectedly heads to the European Challenge Tour’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.

The Irishman looked unlikely to qualify for a place in the elite 45-man event, the last tournament where the 20 available European Tour cards are decided, by a few hundred euros at the conclusion of Saturday’s Toscana Open Italian Federation Cup.

Browne was 71st on the rankings at the start of last week, and needed to finish second on his own at worst to break into the top 45 and qualify for the Grand Final.

Despite a rousing birdie-birdie finish to post a fine final round of three under 68 in the bleakest of conditions, the 33-year-old looked likely to finish in third place and miss out on the top 45 by the tightest of margins as Finland’s Toni Karjalainen was two strokes ahead of Browne in second place coming down the 18th.

Cue the Golfing gods, who obviously decided that Browne was worthy of his place at the Challenge Tour’s showcase final event by making Karjalainen triple bogey the 18th to hand Browne the solo second place finish he required to earn €15,400 and surge up the rankings into 37th place.

“I did all that I could, and the fact that Toni let me in with a triple bogey at the last was obviously a bonus but I felt that I deserved something from it because I had played so well and finished particularly strong,” said Browne.

“They were some of the toughest conditions I have ever played in — it was so cold and windy, one of those days when you can hardly feel your hands, so to shoot 68 and finish with two birdies was a great effort.

“It was a bit of a shock mind you. I thought I had just missed out on the top 45 and was actually on the phone to my wife, Elaine, when I was told I had made it. It was a bit of a shock, but a nice one and it was good to have to change my plans to stay in Italy for an extra week.”

Given his fine form, and the confidence Browne has gleaned from his second place finish last week, it would be no surprise if the Dubliner goes one better at San Domenico this week.

With a prize fund of €250,000 between 45 players — the winner takes home €42,800 — Browne can secure a dream return to The European Tour by taking first or second place.

“I’m playing very well just now, and have been in contention quite regularly for the past couple of months,” he continued.

“I usually finish the season strongly so the confidence is high and I am going to the Grand Final to win. I played well there in 2005 when I got my card through the Challenge Tour. I like the golf course at San Domenico and if the wind gets up there it can be a real tough proposition, which will suit me.”

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