An emotional Oliver Wilson admitted he could be “drunk for a while” following his win in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, after starting the week ranked 792nd in the world.
Wilson, who finished runner-up nine times on the European Tour before losing his card, recorded a closing 70 at St Andrews to finish 17 under par, one shot ahead of world No 1 Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Richie Ramsay.
Fleetwood, who was playing alongside Wilson, missed from 10 feet for birdie on the last to force a play-off, while Ramsay was two clear of the field after his eighth birdie of the day on the 15th, only to bogey the 16th and 17th in a closing 67.
McIlroy double bogeyed the first after misjudging his approach and seeing his ball spin back into the Swilcan Burn, and although he birdied the next four holes and made two more on the 10th and 12th, his chances ended when he putted into the Road Hole bunker on the 17th.
But the likeable Wilson’s win was so popular among his fellow professionals that McIlroy summed up the mood by writing on his Twitter account: “Don’t think I could’ve chosen a better person to finish 2nd to this week! Congrats @Oliver_Wilson so well deserved!”
Wilson is ranked a lowly 102nd on the Challenge Tour, but claimed the first prize of almost £500,000 and a two-year exemption on the European Tour, moving from 252nd to 39th on the Race to Dubai.
“I don’t have words for it,” Wilson said. “It’s been 10, 11 years coming, nine runners-up and I hadn’t done a whole lot (wrong) to lose those but nothing has really gone my way.
“I know so many people had written me off and that hurt, but I just kept believing and a lot of people around me helped.
“I slept awful (Saturday night), I thought about a lot of things that this could do for me but to be honest I probably didn’t genuinely believe, then I got on 17 when I holed that putt and started thinking what were the possibilities.”
Harrogate’s John Parry also enjoyed a fine tournament, finishing eight shots off the leader after rounds of 68 73 68 70.