2005: PGA European Tour - Canonica ends decadelong wait

Gleneagles, Scotland

Talk about some good advice.

Emanuele Canonica of Italy considered quitting golf at the end of last season, but was talked out of it by his wife, Antonella, and two friends – former Italian soccer players Roberto Donadoni and Gianluca Vialli.

“They said I was too good a player and must keep going, so I decided to give it another two years,” said Canonica, 34.

Now he will have two fully exempt years, thanks to Canonica’s victory Aug. 7 at the Johnnie Walker Championship – his first triumph in 231 European Tour events spanning more than a decade. Canonica took home 338,442 euros (approximately $417,675).

“This week I reached my dream,” Canonica said.

It was the first European Tour victory by an Italian since Massimo Scarpa won the Northwest of Ireland Open in 2000. Costantino Rocca was the first Italian with a victory in modern times. He has won four times, with the last coming at the 1999 West of Ireland Open.

Canonica, who shot 7-under 281 to win by two strokes over four players, has finished second twice and third three times in his career. He shot a steady 1-under 71 Sunday and the door to victory was opened when overnight leader Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium stumbled to a 75.

The 22-year-old Colsaerts, who played with Canonica, led by two strokes entering the final round but didn’t make his first birdie until No. 12. He followed it by making bogey at each of the next three holes.

He nearly holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker at the 16th, which would have pulled him within one shot of Canonica. Colsaerts settled for birdie, and Canonica matched it to maintain the two-stroke lead.

“I played great and putted so-so,” Canonica said. “I missed a couple but made a very good birdie on the 16th and this gave me confidence. Two shots ahead with two to play and one of them is a par 5. I thought maybe I had a chance to win.”

Canonica, at just 5-feet-2, is tied for 11th in driving distance on the European Tour with an average of 300.7 yards. But for much of the week the driver stayed in the bag. He used his long irons to stay in the firm and fast fairways of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.

The big hitter has been spotty since earning his card at Q-School in 1994. He finished in the top 100 in the Order of Merit just four times – No. 70 in 1999, 27th in 2000, 52nd in 2002 and 95th last season.

His best showings before last week were runner-up finishes at the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open and the 2002 Spanish Open.

“I waited a long time – 10 years – and came close a couple of times,” Canonica said. “I just tried to stay calm and play my normal game.”

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