HERTFORDSHIRE’S Callum Shinkwin defeated Kalle Samooja in a play-off to win his first European Tour title after a dramatic final day at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open.
Shinkwin holed an incredible 54-foot putt for eagle on the 18th in regulation to get into a play-off as the three gave him the clubhouse lead on 20-under.
After his maiden European Tour win at the 112th attempt, Shinkwin paid tribute to his caddy Sam Robertshawe, a former Hampshire Junior Champion.
The Army GC member, who went on to win on the EuroPro Tour after missing out in the Hampshire County Championship final back in 2012, has made Shinkwin a better greens reader, he told Sky Sports’ Tim Barter.
Callum explained: “I try not to change caddies at all, really, but changed caddies this year to try to help me on the greens more.
“I’ve done that with Sam. He’s a great green reader with his own method.
“I’ve trusted him and he’s basically taught me how to read greens better.
“This week I think I’ve called on him eight times and I’ve holed seven putts from there and obviously holed a lot more reading myself as well, which is obviously really good.”
Victory makes up for Rafa heartache
SHINKWIN’S victory heralds a return to form for the 27-year-old, who lost his card in 2018 after the heartache of coming so close to a Rolex Series victory at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
He lost to Rafa Cabrera-Bello in a play-off when a par on the 72nd hole would have handed him the title.
In far happier scenes on TV, Shinkwin was able to see his wife and young son via a video link in an emotional reunion by the 18th green.
When asked what winning meant to him and his young family, Shinkwin said: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I have. It’s been a bit of a shock, but it feels great.
“I’ve had to trust myself more than anything. I had to make a few changes and obviously it’s worked out for the best,” said Callum who first earned his European Tour card after finishing in the top 15 on the Challenge Tour in 2015.
“Dug deep in 2019 and got my card back, and this year obviously with what has gone on,” he added. “I’m happy to win.
“I felt relaxed all day. I felt great to be fair – 15 and 16 were playing me up all week,” said Shinkwin, who beat Matt Fitzpatrick in the final when winning the English Amateur Championship at Frilford Heath, in 2013.
Shinkwin admits to nerves over closing holes
“I was more nervous playing those two holes just to get through them than in the play-off or on the 18th,” Shinkwin said. “I managed to get through them really well and I felt great.”
The pro attached to Moor Park GC was two shots behind the Finn as he stood on the 17th tee.
And while a birdie there edged him closer, his chances of victory looked slim when he found rough off the tee at the par five last.
His second shot over the water took him to the edge of the putting surface to set up his miraculous eagle to force a play-off with the Finn, after shooting a course record 63.
Samooja left himself an eagle chance from almost exactly the same spot.
But a two-putt birdie meant the European Tour’s first-ever visit to Cyprus ended in extra holes at Aphrodite Hills Resort.
Shinkwin found the greenside bunker with his second shot at the first trip back up the last, with the approach over the intimidating water skirting the length of the last hole at Cyprus’ PGA National course.
The boys from Bushey, who won the Carris Trophy in 2010 and played in the Walker Cup three years later, got up-and-down for a birdie, with Samooja’s three-putt from the fringe sealing Shinkwin’s first win.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, South African Garrick Higgo and Scot Robert MacIntyre finished two shots out of the play-off places on 18-under.
The trio were one clear of Australian Jason Scrivener, Finn Sami Välimäki and Essex’s Dale Whitnell, who enjoyed his best finish since the Betfred British Masters at Close House, in July.
•To see the final scores at Aphrodite Hills click here.