PAUL Casey was over the moon with his performance in the KLM Open in Zandvoort, Netherlands, and he was not the only one after a unique hole-in-one prize was claimed yesterday.
Casey, whose fiancé Pollyanna Woodward gave birth to a baby boy on 1 September, carded a closing 66 at Kennemer Golf Club to claim his 13th European Tour title on 14 under par, one shot ahead of three-time champion Simon Dyson.
A third Englishman, Andy Sullivan, was another stroke back in third but also won a trip into space worth $100,000 for a hole-in-one on the 15th, although he admitted he was not certain to become an amateur astronaut.
“I’m not sure yet,” said Sullivan, who holed out with a nine iron on the 163-yard hole on his way to a closing 67. “I’ll see what the missus says!”
Aberdeen’s Richie Ramsay had a hole-in-one on Friday but missed out on the space trip because his ace was on the 11th hole instead of the 15th. His consolation prize was a year’s supply of beer.
Casey began the day four shots off the lead – just as he did before his last victory in the Irish Open in 2013 – but made the ideal start with four birdies in his first seven holes, and, with overnight leader Romain Wattel dropping a shot on the seventh, Casey moved into a lead he was not about to relinquish.
A birdie on the 14th was followed by his only bogey of the day on the 15th and, with Dyson making a birdie on the last to complete a flawless 65, Casey’s lead was down to a single shot.
However, the former world No 3 held his nerve to close with three pars and seal an emotional victory.
Casey told reporters: “I’m absolutely over the moon. First tournament as a dad, first win as a dad. I’m a bit emotional to be honest. It was very carefree for three and a half days, because, if I played well or poorly, I was going to go home to see my baby, and then I got to the last three holes and I thought I really want this.
“Just having my first child was a great distraction. I had no expectations coming into the week and I did very little practice, even flying in on Wednesday morning to spend as much time at home as possible, so I was apprehensive as to how I was going to play. I couldn’t have dreamed it would turn out this way. It’s not that I wasn’t trying my hardest on the course, but you just don’t know how it will turn out.
“This tournament has been going for more than 90 years and looking at the names on the trophy, you have Seve [Ballesteros], [Bernhard] Langer, Payne Stewart. It’s got some great names, so to add my name to that is a great honour.”
Sullivan needed treatment for altitude sickness in the mountains of Switzerland during last week’s European Masters, so it was no surprise that he gave out mixed messages about his hole-in-one prize. “It was such a rollercoaster out there today and this week, so to top it off by going to space is great,” said the former Walker Cup star. “I was on the comeback after a few bad holes and the caddie pulled out a nine iron and said try to cut it in there, luckily it came off and it went in.
“I’m not sure if I’ll go, I’ll check with the missus. I’m not great with heights or flying! I might have to pluck up some serious courage, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I’m going to have to do it.”
Runner-up Dyson added: “It was a really good week. I got better every day and played really nicely, shot five under and felt like I left a few out there on the front nine.
“I always thought my total would be a bit short, even when Paul bogeyed the 15th. As soon as I got to 10 under, my target was to get 14 under but I am really pleased with the week.