Simon Thornton endured a torrid third day in the Challenge Tour Grand Final. Picture ©Phil InglisOn a rollercoaster day of contrasting emotions, Simon Thornton, father to a new baby boy the previous night, overcame illness and battled to a solid 71 on the third day of the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final to keep his hopes of a European Tour card for 2012 on track, writes the European Tour’s Neil Ahern.

The Co Down based professional did not get much sleep on the night before the third round, after a turbulent 12 hours which began with strong symptoms of an illness before waking up from a poor night’s sleep to the news that his wife, Ciara, had just given birth to a baby boy back in Ireland.

With so much at stake at San Domenico Golf, in the Puglia region of Italy, they were far from ideal circumstances for Thornton as he battled to stay in the top 20 of the Challenge Tour Rankings, but he put his emotions to one side to earn a 30th place going into the final round.

He finished the day five under par for the tournament, 12 shots behind leader Andrea Pavan, after three birdies had put him three under through 11 holes, before succumbing to tiredness and carding three bogeys on the way home.

“I was three under through 12 and dropped a few coming in, but I’m happy enough with level par after how I was feeling,” said the 34 year old, who sat in 20th spot in the projected Challenge Tour Rankings after the third day.

“I think it must have been exhaustion, the first few holes I couldn’t strike the ball at all and then I got into a rhythm but then I just got tired at the end.

“I didn’t hear about the birth until this morning but at about eight o’clock last night I was just feeling horrendous, so I was up all night.

“That took its toll, I thought before I went out, level par would be a good round the way I was; I was literally hitting my six iron 150 yards, I had no energy at all.

“After getting to three under, I thought I had the chance but it became a bit of a battle then. I dropped silly shots coming in but if I shoot three or four under on the final day, you never know.”

The final day is set to be a titanic battle of the young guns at the top, with home hero Pavan and rising English star Tommy Fleetwood fighting for the right to be crowned the winner of both the season-ending event and the Challenge Tour Rankings.

Pavan, the supremely gifted 22 year old who is sponsored by San Domenico Golf, edged ahead of overnight leader Fleetwood, who understandably struggled to maintain the momentum built up by his sensational round of 61 on day two.

Six birdies in a faultless round of 65 carried Pavan to the head of affairs on 17 under par, one stroke ahead of Fleetwood, who signed for a round of 69.

The 20 year old from Southport, England, still remains on course to become the youngest winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings, provided he finishes in the top two. But if he were to slip to third place or worse and Pavan prevails, the Italian would follow in the footsteps of his friend and compatriot Edoardo Molinari, winner of the Challenge Tour in 2009.

Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, San Domenico Golf, Puglia, Italy, par 71.

After 54 holes

196 A Pavan (Ita) 66 65 65,

197 T Fleetwood  (Eng) 67 61 69,

199 A Johnston (Eng) 67 67 65,

200 V Riu  (Fra) 68 67 65,

201 P Edberg (Swe) 69 63 69,

202 S Walker (Eng) 69 67 66, A Marshall (Eng) 67 67 68, C Lloyd (Eng) 68 65 69, F Praegant (Aut) 69 65 68,

203 S Tiley (Eng) 67 66 70, F Colombo (Ita) 72 66 65, J Lima  (Por) 69 68 66,

204 J Quesne  (Fra) 69 69 66, R Santos  (Por) 66 69 69, J Guerrier  (Fra) 66 66 72, L Jensen (Den) 72 65 67,

205 T Ferreira  (RSA) 72 63 70, M Baldwin (Eng) 69 70 66, B Grace  (RSA) 70 67 68, C Lee (Sco) 69 66 70, C Gane (Eng) 68 65 72, J Campillo (Esp) 66 69 70,

206 C Russo (Fra) 68 68 70, E Dubois (Fra) 70 66 70, S Little (Eng) 67 68 71, A Tadini (Ita) 69 66 71, B Hebert  (Fra) 67 69 70, A Snobeck  (Fra) 69 70 67,

207 C Doak (Sco) 71 65 71,

208 M Erlandsson (Swe) 68 72 68, P Gustafsson (Swe) 71 67 70, E Kofstad (Nor) 70 69 69, Simon Thornton (Irl) 67 70 71,

209 D Denison  (Eng) 69 70 70, A Tampion  (Aus) 69 70 70, F Delamontagne  (Fra) 71 70 68, L Kennedy  (Eng) 70 71 68, B Ritthammer (Ger) 69 70 70,

210 J Elson  (Eng) 67 72 71,

211 N Meitinger  (Ger) 73 67 71,

214 M Bothma (RSA) 71 68 75, P Archer (Eng) 73 71 70, J Moul  (Eng) 73 72 69,

215 M Southgate  (Eng) 73 73 69, K Borsheim  (Nor) 72 72 71.