Kalle Samooja. DP World Tour
The European Open has gained a bit of a reputation since its inception as a happy hunting ground for first-time winners.
Recently, we have had four different maiden champs in the past five years in Germany. The tournament has produced several eye-catching storylines in recent years, including successes for Kalle Samooja, Marcus Armitage, Richard McEvoy and Jordan Smith.
Finland’s defending champion Samooja returns this week to the Porsche Nord Course following his amazing Sunday charge to overturn a seven-stroke deficit to triumph over Wil Besseling.
After two earlier runner-up finishes on the DP World Tour, Samooja said: “It is truly special. It’s been a long journey. I’ve been close a few times.”
A year earlier in 2021, Armitage also stormed through the field with a closing 65 on the course known as the “Green Monster” to become a DP World Tour champion.
In a tournament reduced to 54 holes which saw the return of fans following the Covid-19 pandemic, Armitage made six birdies and an eagle in 14 holes to win by two shots.
In his immediate post-round interview, Armitage, who left school at the age of 13 after his mum passed away with cancer, understandably struggled to hide the emotion at his win.
“I’m an emotional guy, I’m struggling to keep a lid on it here,” he said. “I was just trying to breathe and be calm, not touch my phone because that will be going berserk.
“But then you start thinking about everybody at home like my fiancée. Twenty years ago I lost my mum and I’ve dreamt about this since that day, being a winner, and you have days where you think it might not happen but I just stuck at it.
“Today is a great day and I’m sure she would be proud, and everybody in my team that’s helped me — this one’s for me.”
There was another story of perseverance three years earlier in 2018 when McEvoy claimed his first DP World Tour win in his 285th start since turning professional in 2001.
During that time, he made 12 trips to the Qualifying School, enjoying success on six occasions as he flipped between the DP World Tour and Challenge Tour.
But in his greatest achievement to date, the then 39-year-old held off a stellar field, including Masters champion Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau among others, with a clutch 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green sealing victory.
The victory came during a period of good form for McEvoy, who a week earlier had won his third Challenge Tour title at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge and before that won a pro-am at Queenwood which featured stars like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.
“It’s incredible,” McEvoy said. “I’ve waited a long time, 17 years as a pro on and off the tour. I’m absolutely over the moon.
“I just had to carry on believing until that last putt. I kept thinking seize the day, seize the day a couple of times today to give myself a little kick and I certainly did that on the last.”
The run of recent English winners began in 2017 when Jordan Smith sealed his first DP World Tour title in his rookie campaign.
After both he and defending champion Alexander Levy finished at 13-under, Smith prevented the Frenchman becoming the first repeat winner in more than 15 years as he won on the second play-off hole.
It continued a remarkable rise for Smith who had topped the season-long rankings on both the Challenge Tour and EuroPro Tour in his previous two seasons.
“It’s been nerve-wracking at times but I’ve really enjoyed it,” the then 24-year-old Smith said. “It’s all a bit surreal.”