Down’s Jonathan Caldwell gave himself the perfect belated birthday present by claiming his first European Tour title in the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed.
Caldwell, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Thursday, fired an eagle and eight birdies in a brilliant final round of 64 to finish 17 under par, a shot ahead of Spain’s Adrian Otaegui.
Otaegui had a putt to win on the 18th but charged his birdie attempt four feet past the hole and missed the return putt.
England’s Alice Hewson needed to eagle the last to force a play-off but had to settle for a par to finish third in the first event on the European Tour to feature men and women competing on the same course for one prize fund and one trophy.
Caldwell, who partnered Rory McIlroy in the 2007 Walker Cup, began the day three shots off the lead but covered his first 11 holes in six under par and then holed from 40 feet for an eagle on the 14th to move two shots clear.
That lead was short-lived thanks to a combination of his bogey on the 15th and Jason Scrivener making a birdie on the 10th, but a birdie on the 16th took Caldwell back in front.
A bogey on the 17th looked set to prove costly, but Caldwell bounced back brilliantly with a superb approach to the last.
The resulting tap-in birdie set the clubhouse target on 17 under par and, although Otaegui swiftly got to that mark with a two-putt birdie on the par-five 16th, his bogey on the last handed Caldwell the title.
“It’s been a dream of mine for an awful long time,” Caldwell said. “A lot of hard work goes into it. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but hopefully more to come.
“The win is special enough, but to be doing the presentation on the 18th green with (tournament hosts) Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson, two absolute icons in the world of golf, is quite unbelievable to be honest.
“In 2009 I played my first year, lost my card, played mini tours and Challenge Tour over the years, worked as well in a local golf store.
“I worked in Nevada Bob’s in Bangor for four or five years while I was playing EuroPro Tour. I’d work Saturday, Sunday, Monday, travel Tuesday morning and back home Friday night.
“Especially after a bad week you can think, ‘What am I doing?’ But I certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of my days working in a golf store so I stuck at it and persevered and thankfully I did.
“It’s been a long road but finally I’m here. The golf club at home will probably be going bonkers, so just put a tab on and crack on boys and enjoy.” The club in question is Clandeboye Golf Club in Bangor and Caldwell insisted he had no regrets about the size of the bar bill he will face on his return home.
“I don’t care,” added Caldwell, who will climb from 456th in the world rankings to just outside the top 200.
“Everybody at the club is massively supportive of me, they root for me every week. I have a great time when I’m at home and they deserve a few beers tonight.” Hewson, who was part of a four-way tie for the lead after 54 holes, said: “I got off to a bit of a shaky start, was definitely nervous those first few holes, but managed to get some momentum on the back nine and just really excited with my performance this week, especially after a very tough start to the season.
“This has been an exceptional opportunity for women’s golf as a whole.
“For us to be on this kind of stage and prove to everyone how good women’s golf actually is has been such a great opportunity and I’m really happy to have been part of the first one.”