Simon Thornton claims maiden win in St Omer
Irishman beat South African Tjaart Van Der Walt on first play-off hole in France
Simon Thornton of Ireland secured his maiden Tour win in the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open at St Omer Golf Course, France. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Simon Thornton claimed his first win on the European Tour when he beat Tjaart van der Walt on the first play-off hole at the St Omer Open.
With many of the Tour’s big names at Merion for the US Open, this tournament had slipped somewhat under the radar but Thornton and Van der Walt provided some high drama in northern France.
The overnight leaders both fired closing 70s to finish on five under, one shot clear of Englishman Seve Benson who had led at one point himself.
That meant they had to go back up the 18th and while Thornton claimed a routine par with a tap-in, Van der Walt bogeyed the hole for the first time this week to hand him the title.
Thornton’s cheque of €83,330 almost doubled his biggest payday on tour prior to this weekend - when he took €42,400 home from Wentworth in 2010 - and very nearly surpassed the €88,599 he won last season.
“It’s so big for me,” Thornton said. “On father’s day, too. He passed away three years ago and it still hurts, but they are happy tears today. This is dedicated to him.
“On the last putt — I had been saying to myself all day, if I’m going to make it easy for myself I need to try on every putt and make sure it goes where you want to hit it — so I just picked a line and willed it in and it dropped.”
“Hopefully this is a stepping stone for me. I’ll go home this week now and celebrate, take a week off, and then play in the Irish Open.”
He got off to a flying start with birdies at the first and third before a dropped shot at four. The Irishman dropped a shot at seven but quickly recovered it at the next before a further bogey on nine got him to the turn in level-par 36.
He then birdied 10 and parred all the way home to finish on five under.
Van der Walt also birdied the first but dropped the shot at five before a double bogey at eight sandwiched by two birdies kept him level for the front nine.
A further birdie on 12 followed but a run of pars saw the South African into the play-off.
Benson had threatened to gatecrash the party but a bogey on 16 proved vital as he finished on four under.
Fellow Englishman Robert Dinwiddie was next on two under after a remarkable round which saw him record just six pars.
The 30-year-old had four birdies and four bogeys through 14 holes before he followed a double on 15 with three closing birdies.
Swede Pelle Edberg and another Englishman in Chris Lloyd were the only other players to finish under par as they sat a further shot back.
Dane Jeppe Huldahl was one of three players on level-par after a round which contained a run of six consecutive birdies from the fifth to the 10th but also a triple-bogey seven at the third.
Scotland’s Gary Orr fired the round of the day as a 67 saw him finish one over while Frenchman Baptiste Chapellan, who had begun the day level with Thornton and Van der Walt, fired a six-over par 77 to finish on two over.