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Thornton relishes return to top tier European events after PGA Play-Offs success



Thornton relishes return to top tier European events after PGA Play-Offs success

Northern Ireland PGA Professional Simon Thornton earned himself spots in this year’s BMW PGA Championship, Irish Open and British Masters after winning the PGA Play-Offs at Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus.

The 46-year-old former European Tour winner will return to the circuit, now named the DP World Tour, after birdieing the 17th hole to take advantage of Scotland’s Paul O’Hara late slip-up to claim the title by a stroke.

Thornton, who is attached to Spa Golf Club in County Down, will now tee it up at Royal County Down for the Irish Open, as well as heading to Wentworth for the first time since 2014 for the DP World Tour’s flagship event in back-to-back weeks in September.

His victory also comes with invites to the Betfred British Masters at the Belfry at the end of August, along with Challenge Tour starts at the NI Open at Galgorm Castle in July, the Irish Challenge a week later and the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge the week after that.

Thornton has also secured his place in this year’s Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team, which will see them take on the USA at Sunriver Resort in Oregon in September.

Thornton, who claimed his only European Tour win at the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open in 2013, started the final round in Cyprus one shot back of O’Hara at seven-under-par and it would prove to be a tough day, as only one player in the 24-man field would shoot under-par.

The one-shot lead would have changed hands by the halfway stage of the round, however, with O’Hara’s double-bogey-double finish to the front nine to go out in four-over, dropping him back to four-under for the tournament, allowing Thornton, who bogeyed the third and seventh, to steal in one shot ahead.

But the par-five 10th would prove to be a two-shot swing in favour of the Scot, his birdie catapulting him back into a one-shot lead as Thornton bogeyed, and it appeared O’Hara had done enough when he parred his way through the next six holes and Thornton bogeyed the 16th to take the gap to two.

However, a sensational birdie from Thornton at the par-three 17th gave, allied with O’Hara’s bogey, meant the pair went down the 18th level pegging, and the Newcastle man was able to clean up for par as O’Hara closed with back-to-back bogeys to hand him the victory and a host of exciting opportunities in the latter half of the year.

O’Hara and third-placed Toby Hunt from Wales captured the two remaining spots for automatic qualification for the 2024 PGA Cup. O’Hara, who also earned one DP World Tour and two Challenge Tour exemptions, said: “I’ve been playing a little bit in America and I’ve been doing pretty well so far, so to have the DP World Tour and Challenge Tour spots is amazing. The PGA Cup is a great event, it was fantastic the last time I played – I don’t know how we didn’t win the last time to be honest, but I think this time we’ve got a really good chance, we’ve got so many good players. It’s an exciting year, I’m going to try and make the most of it!”

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