Essex tour pro Dale Whitnell ended a decade-long wait for his first win on tour after coming through a play-off against fellow Englishman Laurie Canter to claim the Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy in Belgium.
The 31-year-old from Colchester began the final round at Millennium Golf in Paal three shots behind the leaders, but a closing 63, which included nine birdies, saw him post a 23-under-par clubhouse target.
Playing in the final group, Canter eagled the 72nd hole to send the tournament to a play-off, and after both players birdied the first extra hole, they played the 18th once more, where Whitnell birdied the par five for the sixth time that week to seal victory when Canter failed to get up and down from behind the green.
“It changes my life completely,” said an emotional Whitnell, who turned pro in 2009 after playing in the Walker Cup. “I’ve been a pro for ten years, and it’s been very tough, but I’ve finally I’ve done it!”
Despite missing the cut in four of the previous six Challenge Tour events he has played in this season, Whitnell said he arrived at the tournament in a positive frame of mind. “I had actually been playing pretty well coming up to this week. I struggled the first day a little bit with a 70, but I shot seven under in the second round and played great, and then shot seven under again on the third day. Going out for the final round, I told myself to go and enjoy it and try to play aggressively on the holes where there are opportunities. Fortunately I managed to that and came away with a 63. I’m absolutely delighted and hopefully it’ll help me push on for the rest of the season.”
The win, which came with a first prize of €29,000, moves Whitnell from 53rd to 17th on the Road to Mallorca rankings, and gives himself the possibility of winning a European Tour card for next season if he can remain inside the top 20. There are eight events still to play before the Grand Final in Spain in November.
“I’ve only played Challenge Tour events this season, so to be in with a chance of getting my card is amazing,” Whitnell added. “I’m now qualified for all the remaining events for the season, and I’ll just have to go out there and keep up the good work.”