Matthew Baldwin stormed to a seven-shot victory at the SDC Championship 2023, producing a final-day masterclass to secure a first DP World Tour title in his 200th event.
Baldwin's 11-year journey to the winner's circle has contained plenty of ups and downs, with illness forcing him to cut his campaign short in 2015.
But he made the final stretch look easy as he marched to victory at St. Francis Links on Sunday, signing for a closing 68 to finish the tournament on 18 under par.
The Englishman began the day alongside Kristian Krogh Johannessen at the top of the leaderboard but made three birdies in the last four holes of his third round early on Sunday morning to take a four-stroke advantage into round four.
Baldwin extended that lead to six shots early in the final round, making three birdies on the front side to reach 17 under at the turn and keep the chasing pack at bay.
With no-one able to apply any meaningful pressure on him, Baldwin enjoyed a stress-free back nine as he made two further birdies, with his only bogey of the day coming at the 11th.
Spaniard Adri Arnaus finished alone in second on 11 under after making seven birdies and two bogeys in his closing 67.
After graduating from the European Challenge Tour in 2011, Baldwin enjoyed an impressive first three campaigns on Tour, comfortably keeping his card and qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship in 2014, the same season he claimed his best finish of second at the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS HANDA.
But he had to shut down his 2015 season in May due to illness and had two operations over the summer before losing his card in 2016.
He was back on Tour for the 2018 season after coming through the Qualifying School and would have been back in 2021 via the Challenge Tour but missed out after the categories were frozen due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A 19th-placed finish on last season's Road to Mallorca now sees him in his seventh full season on Tour and he can finally call himself a DP World Tour champion.
Reflecting on his journey to this moment at the trophy presentation, Southport native Baldwin said: "I'm not 100 per cent sure what's just happened! It's been a tough few years, so obviously to get the win means absolutely everything.
"I can't process it right now but it just means the world to me.
"It's been windy all week, it's that sort of golf course. Fortunately for me I've grown up playing in Southport at Hesketh and Royal Birkdale, so I'm pretty good in the wind and it's worked out a treat for me.
"Obviously I'd like to thank St. Francis Links, the golf course has been fantastic this week; the DP World Tour for putting on superb events, as do the Sunshine Tour - they always welcome us down here."
Dedicating the victory to his late stepfather, Baldwin said: "It’s been a tough 12 months. My stepdad died last May, and this is for him."
Having finished his third round with a birdie blitz to sign for a flawless 65 early on Sunday, Baldwin kept his foot on the gas as he began the final 18 holes.
The 37-year-old birdied the first to climb to 15 under before pulling off some great recovery shots to keep his card clean over the next few holes.
After sending his tee-shot at the short seventh to around 18 feet, Baldwin rolled in the birdie putt before making it back-to-back gains from ten feet on the eighth to move six clear at the top.
He dropped his first shot of the day at the 11th after failing to get up and down from a tricky spot but bounced back with a birdie on the long 13th to return to 17 under.
Baldwin moved even further clear with a second successive gain on the short 14th, rattling in his 20-foot putt to go seven shots ahead, before saving par with a magnificent up-and-down at the 15th.
He then parred his way home to earn his first title in style in the tournament which is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.
Arnaus signed for a round of 67, while five players shared third place on 10 under par – Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, South African Jaco Ahlers and France’s Antoine Rozner, all of whom carded rounds of 68, Sweden’s Jens Dantorp, who closed with a 70, and Norway’s Kristian Krigh Johannessen, who signed for a 72.