Miles Tunnicliff wins Great North Open following mother's death
Miles Tunnicliff’s victory at the Great North Open would be newsworthy enough, even without the extenuating circumstances.
After all, Tunnicliff, 33, has been on the Challenge Tour the past two years, and his first career European Tour victory June 23 gave him a two-year exemption.
But when you consider that Tunnicliff has been away from golf for a month while caring for his mother, who died of cancer two weeks before the Great North Open, the story becomes even more special.
“My mother gave me the strength and inspiration to do what I did today,” Tunnicliff said after shooting a final-round 69 to finish at 9-under-par 279 and win by four strokes over Sven Strúver. “What happened to my mother made me dig in a lot more. She was positive to the end, and I tried to be today.”
Entering the final round, Tunnicliff, Strúver and David Gilford of England were tied for the lead. But Strúver shot a 73 and Gilford a 78.
It appeared Tunnicliff’s final round might not turn out the way he planned after he bogeyed the first hole, but he got back on track with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 3.
Then Tunnicliff took control when he chipped in at No. 5 and No. 8.
“When that happened, I thought this might be my day, that someone up there was looking down on me,” he said. “I shed tears twice this morning before my round. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions once I started.”
Tunnicliff jumped 215 spots in the Order of Merit to No. 65 after taking home the first prize of 155,960 euros (approximately $151,125).
“I actually got into the Compass Group English Open a couple of weeks ago but had to turn that down,” Tunnicliff said. “I had been at home for four weeks trying to support her and do as much as I could.
“She told me get out there and play and do as well as I could, and I thought that was the best thing I could do. Two days before she died she told me to go out and win a tournament so I had to get out here and try to do just that.”
Struver, who earned 103,962 euros (approximately $100,740) for finishing second, played aggressively on the back nine. But he came up four shots short.
“I was going for the flags on the back nine. I had to because I knew he was doing well up front,” Struver said. “But I couldn’t achieve it, couldn’t get close enough to put any real pressure on him.”
Bradley Dredge of Wales and England’s Malcom Mackenzie, who earned his first European Tour victory last month at the French Open, tied for third at 4 under.