Liam Johnston ends miserable run of results to land third Challenge Tour win

Liam Johnston ended two years of misery in spectacular fashion by landing his third Challenge Tour triumph with an impressive victory on Spanish soil.

Liam Johnston shows off the trophy after winning Emporda Challenge at Emporda Golf Club in Girona. Picture: Alex Caparros/Getty Images.
Liam Johnston shows off the trophy after winning Emporda Challenge at Emporda Golf Club in Girona. Picture: Alex Caparros/Getty Images.

Having moved into contention in the Emporda Challenge in Girona with middle rounds of 65 and 64, the 29-year-old Dumfries man secured a €40,000 top prize with a closing 67.

Helped by an eagle and two birdies on the last lap at Emporda Golf, he finished with a 13-under-par total, winning by two shots from England’s Todd Clements (65).

Johnston was flying high as he landed wins in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 and Kazakhstan Open in 2018, when he joined Grant Forrest, Bob MacIntyre and David Law in graduating to the main tour.

But this latest success came right out of the blue, having gone into the event on the back of six successive missed cuts, including the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge at Newmachar.

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“Yeah, it is pretty good,” he declared before quickly adding. “No, it’s not pretty good - it’s incredible, it’s unbelievable.

“It’s been a couple of really hard years for me and, even at the start of this year, it’s been tough. But I’ve just been persevering and working hard and I’m glad that it has finally come to fruition.”

The 2017 African Amateur and Scottish Stroke-Play champion, who started the day one behind Swede Jens Dantrop, reeled off seven straight pars before following birdies at the eighth and tenth with a timely eagle-3 at the 12th.

He led by three shots before dropping his only shot of the round at the 17th, but it was job done as he signed off with a solid par-4 on a hole with lots of potential trouble.

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“To be honest, I didn’t look at a single leaderboard all week until the 18th tee,” said Johnston, who is part of Paul Lawrie’s Five Star Sports Agency stable. “I knew I was up there obviously being in the final group today.

“I just kept an eye on my own score and was trying to get to 15-under - that was my goal for today. I was just trying to be as aggressive as I could as the guys behind me are all capable of shooting seven and eight -under and catching up.

“Once I got to the 18th tee, I saw that I was two shots ahead and that made my decision for me. I was kind of thinking earlier in the round that if I was in that situation I wasn’t going to hit driver and that’s what I did.

“I hit a 2-iron and then a lovely 5-iron onto the green and managed to get out of there with two putts, so delighted.”

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The win, which was the first by a Scot on the circuit since Craig Howie landed a maiden triumph last year, lifted Johnston from 104th to tenth in the Road to Mallorca Rankings, with DP World Tour cards on offer to the top 20 at the end of the season.

“I have been working so hard for two years, sometimes not on the right things,” he said. “But I’ve kept working hard and just learning about myself. I’m just happy to see that starting to pay off more than anything else.

“On the Challenge Tour, you’ve got got to stay on the front foot and keep pushing to get into that top 20and finish as high up in that as you can.

“Obviously it’s nice (to win) but I’m already thinking about the next few weeks going forward. I’m going to phone my fiancee first as she’s been with me through it all.”

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