Jose Luis Ballester (EGA photo)
Jose Luis Ballester closed-out a wire-to-wire European Amateur Championship victory on a windy final day in Estonia to earn an invitation to The 151st Open.
The Spaniard, who carded a 10-under 62 in round one, looked like the player to beat all week.
Starting the final round with a two-stroke lead, the 19-year-old closed out a final round 1-over 73 in strong winds to finish with a total score of 21-under and win by two strokes.
The final day got off to a perfect start for Ballester. The Spaniard made eagle down the short par-5 first, and with a slow start from his playing partners, Michael Mjaaseth (Norway) and Jack Ingham (Netherlands), he quickly opened up a four-shot lead.
Ballester continued to hit fairways and greens over the next few holes, and without anyone mounting a challenge in the windy conditions, it looked like he might runaway with the lead. However a poor chip and a three-putt on the par-4 6th lead to a shock double-bogey which quickly shook up the leaderboard.
Ballester's Arizona State teammate, Mjaaseth, birdied the 5th and 7th to tie with the Spaniard. Another birdie on the 8th then put him into the outright lead, although it would be hist last of the day. Four dropped shots in the next three holes seemed to discourage the Norwegian, who would make two more double-bogey on the back-nine to finish with a 5-over 77.
A bogey on the 10th for Ballester allowed a number of players right back into the mix. England's Jack Bigham briefly held the lead on -21, as did Mads Laage (Denmark), but they both dropped shots in the challenging, cross-wind, closing stretch.
Ballester came to life in the last six holes. A birdie on the 13th and a near-ace with a 5-iron from 144 yards straight into the wind, opened up a four shot advantage with four holes to play.
Despite a dropped shot on the 15th, excellent par-saves after missing the 16th and 17th greens meant the Spaniard would play the 18th with a three-shot lead. A bogey down the last would be enough to secure a two-shot victory and the 2023 European Amateur title.
The EGA gold medal will be the second earned by Ballester, who secured the winning point for Spain in the 2022 European Amateur Team Championship at Royal St. George's. He also ends a 28-year wait for a Spanish winner in the event, becoming the first Spaniard to claim the European Amateur title since Sergio Garcia in 1995.
The victory earns the Spaniard a spot in The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool in three week's time.
ABOUT THE European Amateur
The premier championship in
conducted by the European Golf
which is comprised of 38 member
hole stroke play format. After 54 holes the field is cut
to the leading 60 players and ties. The winner earns
a spot in the British Open.
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