Turkish Airlines delight for Ruaidhri McGee
 Ruaidhri McGee. Picture courtesy Turkish Airlines

Ruaidhri McGee. Picture courtesy Turkish Airlines

Ruaidhri McGee got his season off to a sensational start when he closed with the joint second-best score of the day to finish fourth in the Turkish Airlines Challenge in Antalya.

The 26-year-old Derry man, who only had a Category 14 card at the start of the year, fired a one-under par 71 on a blustery final day to finish eight shots behind maiden winner Ryan Evans on 13-under-par.

McGee picked up €12,000 for his efforts and is now fourth on the Race to Oman rankings after his first start of the year.

"It's a good start," said McGee, who was unsure who his ranking would be affected heading for next month's Open de Portugal at Mordago Golf Resort. "We'll find out later what it all means."

It should mean more starts for McGee and more confidence, which is what The Island's Gavin Moynihan will also gain after he finished tied 25th on seven-under after a 72, earning €1,720.

As for Evans, he sealed a maiden European Challenge Tour victory as he prevailed in an epic tussle with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen to win by four shots at Gloria Golf Club in Belek.

The Englishman was paired with the Finn for the second day running, and with windy conditions in Belek preventing anyone further down the field from challenging, the tournament became a one-on-one battle over the last 18 holes.

Evans, who moves to second place in the Road to Oman Rankings with this win, never relinquished his overnight lead, pulling four shots clear with nine holes to play before nerves, and conditions, added to the back nine drama.

A crucial moment looked to have come on the par-five 16th when Evans three-putted from inside 20 feet and Pulkkanen made birdie to move within one shot.

But Evans thrillingly bounced back on the 17th with a birdie that made his walk down the last – which he duly birdied too – slightly more relaxed.

“I tried not to think of the situation and just play golf,” said the 30 year old. 

“My dad texted me last night saying, ‘play the course, not the man,’ and that’s what you have to do, try to forget what Tapio was doing and play the course as well as you can – I’m so pleased to go round under par today.

 Winner Ryan Evans. Picture courtesy Turkish Airlines

Winner Ryan Evans. Picture courtesy Turkish Airlines

“We were both quite a bit ahead of everyone else and the back nine isn’t easy in this wind but unless we had a disaster, one of us was going to win it.

“I just had to keep myself ahead of him but try not to make it a match play – it was more, if he puts it in the middle of the green, I’ll put it in the middle of the green, play sensibly.

“We were both in the same situation really, neither of us had won on the Challenge Tour before, but to be fair we both played really well today because dropping shots out there today in that wind was easy.

“I bogeyed 15, he birdied it, and that’s suddenly a two shot swing to him and my lead was only one shot again. That birdie putt on 17 was huge – I got up there and just fancied it, hit a great putt, and that made it a bit more chilled down the last.

“It was completely different today. I was sitting in my hotel room this morning and I could hear the wind and I shouldn’t have done but I was looking at the scores and everyone was over par – I thought, ‘this two shot lead is nothing, it’s anyone’s game.’

“I was working myself up a little bit in the room so I had to shut it off a little bit and just remind myself that I was playing great and that I know how to play in the wind, I’ve played in the wind loads as an amateur, I just needed to get out there and do what I’ve been doing all week.

“When I got to the course I felt really calm, and the whole way round I didn’t even feel under pressure or anything.

“I thought if I could get round in level par that would be enough, and you can see from the scores today how hard it was, there were some very high scores out there.

“This win means I’ve got to concentrate on getting top 15 on the Road to Oman now, getting this good result early on is so important and now I just need to make sure I can push on.”

Evans’ closing one under par round of 71 was one of only five under par scores in the fourth round and took him to 21 par overall, with Pulkkanen runner-up on 17 under par and Frenchman Julien Guerrier two shots further back in third spot.

Ireland’s Ruaidhri McGee took fourth place on 13 under par with last year’s winner Clément Sordet one of three players, along with Grant Forrest and Borja Virto, to share fifth spot one shot further back.

Final Scores

Detailed scores

267 R Evans (Eng) 66 66 64 71, 

271 T Pulkkanen (Fin) 62 69 67 73, 

273 J Guerrier (Fra) 65 69 68 71, 

275 Ruaidhri McGee (Irl) 72 66 66 71, 

276 B Virto (Esp) 68 70 67 71, C Sordet (Fra) 70 65 69 72, G Forrest (Sco) 69 66 68 73, 

277 A Tadini (Ita) 68 66 70 73, M Kinhult (Swe) 71 66 66 74, M Ovesen (Den) 65 71 65 76, 

278 J Brun (Fra) 70 68 70 70, B Evans (Eng) 69 70 65 74, B Neil (Sco) 74 64 65 75, M Fenasse (Fra) 67 68 68 75, 

279 R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) 73 66 67 73, S Brown (Eng) 66 71 69 73, A Turner (Eng) 65 72 69 73, M Orrin (Eng) 69 66 66 78, 

280 M Madsen (Den) 68 67 73 72, M Foster (Eng) 69 70 67 74, R Santos (Por) 69 64 73 74, J Makitalo (Fin) 71 65 68 76, S Heisele (Ger) 69 70 63 78, A Ahokas (Fin) 69 65 67 79, 

281 Gavin Moynihan (Irl) 69 70 70 72, M Wallace (Eng) 70 66 73 72, M Lundberg (Swe) 71 67 69 74, E Van Rooyen (RSA) 71 67 68 75, J McDonald (Sco) 68 70 68 75, C Berardo (Fra) 70 65 71 75, N Lindstrom (Swe) 71 66 67 77, 

282 T Linard (Fra) 68 71 70 73, J McLeary (Sco) 71 66 70 75, E Di Nitto (Ita) 69 68 69 76, M Lampert (Ger) 70 67 68 77, O Farr (Wal) 69 67 69 77, E Cuartero Blanco (Esp) 66 70 68 78, 

283 R Davies (Wal) 70 68 71 74, V Riu (Fra) 67 70 72 74, C Mivis (Bel) 71 64 71 77, L Van Meijel (Ned) 70 67 68 78, 

284 H McCullen (Eng) 68 69 74 73, J Senior (Eng) 70 69 71 74, M Lafeber (Ned) 71 66 73 74, N Ravano (Ita) 70 69 69 76, W Besseling (Ned) 69 67 72 76, 

285 L De Jager (RSA) 72 67 71 75, J Van Der Vaart (Ned) 70 69 69 77, M Quiros (Esp) 68 68 72 77, D Foos (Ger) 71 68 68 78, P Maddy (Eng) 70 69 68 78, 

286 D Law (Sco) 73 66 71 76, T Murray (Eng) 67 71 70 78, R Saxton (Ned) 68 68 72 78, J Winther (Den) 68 69 69 80, 

288 C Ford (Eng) 68 71 71 78, 

290 J Mullen (Eng) 69 68 74 79, M Søgaard (Den) 66 67 73 84, 

292 M Ford (Eng) 70 69 71 82, 

294 O Stark (Swe) 75 63 71 85, 

296 M Cort (Eng) 70 69 77 80.