TROON, Scotland (June 3, 2012) -- Frenchman Paul Barjon produced his back nine Sunday best to storm to glory in the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship, emulating the success of his compatriot Romain Wattel two years ago.
With only nine holes remaining on a congested, international leaderboard at Kilmarnock (Barassie), a play-off perhaps looked likely before Barjon produced a closing birdie blitz to ease to a four-shot success. The 19-year-old closed with a superb 68 for a 10-under-par total of 282.
Following a number of French winners on Scottish soil down the years at various levels of the game, Gregory Havret on the European Tour among them, Barjon’s win was achieved thanks to five birdies in the last nine holes.
Indeed, his liking for the final nine holes over the renowned links proved the key to his victory – Barjon was 12-under-par for the inward half during the four rounds.
Hailing from New Caledonia, a small French colony in south-west Pacific Ocean, Barjon becomes the third French winner of the event after Francois Illouz at Blairgowrie in 1989 and Wattel, now thriving on the European Tour, at Glasgow Gailes in 2010.
Three off the lead overnight and then two behind going into the final 18 holes, Barjon began his title bid with a birdie at the eighth.
Five more followed at 10, 12, 13, 16 and 17 as he eased to victory, winning by four strokes from fast-finishing South African Stroke Play champion Haydn Porteous and Australian Rory Bourke.
The delighted teenager, who visited Scotland two months ago to help acclimatise to links golf, said: “I played the back nine really well in each round, mainly thanks to my putting. The par-5s were playing quite short and I managed to score well on them.
“I came fourth in the French amateur stroke play last weekend so I felt I was playing well.”
Barjon, who now lives in Nice after gowing up playing on only three courses in New Caledonia, added; “It’s my biggest win and it was nice to have so many French players here (18 altogether), even though four or five of our best players weren’t here. French amateur golf has really taken off.”
Another Frenchman, Lionel Weber, shared fourth place with Australia’s Matthew Stieger.
Porteous, who led after the first round thanks to a sparkling 65, saw his challenge fade in the strong winds over the weekend, but he dug deep for a final round five-under-par 68 that was highlighted with an eagle, birdie, birdie finish.
“The wind blew opposite to what I was used to in practice and that changed the course dramatically,” the 17-year-old said. “I had to adjust my game plan a little and was battling off the tee.
“It’s a good finish in my first links event ahead of the other tournaments ahead, like the St Andrews Links Trophy and The Amateur Championship.”
The fight for Scotland’s prestigious stroke play title looked set to be contested by home hopes, but the challenges of Ross Bell (Downfield), Greig Marchbank (Dumfries & County) and Paul Shields (faded).
Former Walker Cup man Michael Stewart, a Troon Welbeck local, followed the action in a bid to inspire the Scots, but it proved to no avail.
Bell’s hopes crumbled with a devastating nine at the 12th, a quadruple bogey, as he tied for 18th on one-over-par.
The second round leader said: “It was a long day, a real battle and I struggled. I kept finding trouble off the tee.
“I’m a little bit disappointed, but the positives are playing well over the first three rounds.”
Shields shared 11th spot at one-under-par, with Marchbank the best Scot a shot better off.