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Cipa pipped to Q School title

11:45 07 February 2014

Steve Cipa drives from the 17th tee during the third round of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School Finals at Vale da Pinta, Portugal.  (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

Steve Cipa drives from the 17th tee during the third round of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School Finals at Vale da Pinta, Portugal. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

2014 Getty Images

Upminster man secures Senior Tour card for 2014

Upminster’s Steve Cipa saw his hopes of winning the European Senior Tour’s Qualifying School Final dashed by close friend Andrew Murray in Portugal.

Cipa took a one-shot lead into the final round, but saw Murray card birdies at the first two holes.

And Cipa then suffered a stroke of bad luck when he found a plugged lie in a bunker at the third hole and struggled to a double bogey.

Murray went on to card a nerveless one-under par 70 to win by three shots, for his first tournament victory since the 1989 European Open.

Cipa’s 75 left him five under for the tournament and his runners-up spot sealed a return to the Senior Tour for the 2014 season.

The 57-year-old Murray paid an emotional tribute to his son Tom, who plays on the Challenge Tour, and spoke of how the week at Pestana Golf Resort’s Pinta Course could prove a launchpad for further success for both players.

“I’m absolutely chuffed,” said Murray. “It’s the first four-round tournament I’ve won in over 20 years and the butterflies were going in my stomach coming down the stretch.

“To win in a field like this and on a course as good as this is great, and to have Tom alongside me makes it even more special.

“There are special times for us, it’s probably not going to happen very often. He has played a massive part. We read the wind well all week and had a gameplan and stuck to it.

“I hope Tom and I can feed off this. It was terrific controlled golf over four days and he said he’d never seen anything like it, so it would be even more of a thrill if this could inspire him to win on the Challenge Tour this year. I think he was proud, it was very emotional.”

While Murray is the proud owner of one European Tour title, he is hoping this victory, and the manner in which he did it, can give him the confidence to challenge for a maiden Senior Tour title in 2014.

“It would be nice to win a full event this season but I’m just happy to play such controlled golf this week and I’m pleased with how I held it together,” he added.

“I got off to a great start and hit to close to a foot at the first, then to three feet at the second. They were two terrific shots.

“I played really controlled golf, just knocking it close to the hole every time and tapping it in from a foot every time.

“I wasn’t doing anything daft and had everything under control, other than a bogey at the eighth and a couple of poor shots coming in.

“I got it together at the last and got a bit of a break. I am chuffed with how I played. There were some quality shots so I’m delighted.”

The two Englishmen were joined by four others, including three Americans, in claiming unconditional cards for the coming campaign.

One of them, Jerry Smith, carded the round of the day - a five under par 66 - to seal the third card on offer, while Barry Conser (72) and Gary Rusnak (69) finished in tied fourth alongside Italian Marco Bianco (69).

Smith, a former US PGA Tour player whose best finish came at the Walt Disney World Golf Classic, where he was third behind winner Josè Cóceres and runner-up Davis Love III, will turn 50 in April and is looking forward to the new challenges a maiden season on the Senior Tour will bring.

“I knew I was playing well this week and I think I had good control over everything I was doing out there,” said the Arizona man.

“Europe is one place I’ve never played, having played a lot in Asia years ago, so I’m looking forward to playing in some new places.”

Jean Pierre Sallat, a former professional footballer in France’s top league, completed an impressive recovery from a seven over par second round of 78 by carding a second successive 69 to earn one of the eight conditional cards on offer.

He was joined by Robert Arnott of Scotland, Englishmen Mark Belsham, John Gould, Wraith Grant, Gary Marks and George Ryall as well as Australia’s Glenn Joyner, who chipped in for a crucial eagle at the par four 17th hole to clinch his spot.

Ireland’s John McHenry and England’s Tony Lawrence will have conditional cards for a definitive period, with two of the successful players yet to turn 50, having finished in 15th and 16th place respectively.

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