Matt Wallace planned to take a leaf out of Andrew “Beef” Johnston’s book to celebrate winning the Portugal Open. The 27-year-old Englishman had one thing in mind after picking up a check for $91,000.
“I’ll have a few beers,” Wallace said.
It wasn’t quite Johnston’s “I’m going to get hammered” line after winning last year’s Spanish Open, but the 27-year-old Englishman earned a cold one or three after winning by three shots.
Not many people had heard of Wallace before the Portugal Open. He changed that with a wire-to-wire victory to earn his first European Tour win.
Wallace opened with a 10-under 63. Not many expected him to hold onto the lead considering he was up against better caliber players. Yet he hung on with scores of 66, 73 and a closing 69 for a 21-under 271 to beat Julian Suri of the United States by three shots.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” he said. “It’s always been a dream to win on the European Tour.
“Those first two days were really easy, that third day was the hardest day of my life and today was tough, but it’s so satisfying and I’m really happy.
“A good friend of mine, Tom Lewis, won here in Portugal and I spoke to him yesterday. He has great memories here and I’m going to as well.”
Wallace may have his name on the trophy along with Lewis, but that’s where the comparison ends. Lewis had a stellar amateur career and arrived on the circuit with high expectations. Wallace was pretty much a non-entity in the British amateur ranks.
The man from London won six times on last year’s Alps Tour, including five in a row. However, it’s a big jump from a mini-tour to the European Tour. Even he didn’t think he’d step up to the next level as quickly as he did.
“I didn’t see it coming, I never envisioned standing here, I just tried to go through my processes and work as hard as I could to be standing here today,” Wallace said.
Suri closed with a 65 to take second place. The St Augustine resident credited a phone call back home to his coach for helping him close strongly.
“Putting was the difference for me today,” Suri said. “It definitely wasn’t my best ball-striking day. Being able to trust my stroke inside ten or 12 feet, because out here you will have so many of those putts, that definitely made the difference.
“It’s been a long time coming. I was home for about six weeks back in the States working with a coach – Dan Carragher – and he gave me a pep talk last night, telling me to trust my putting.”