OC alum Stark wins first European Challenge event title

OC Sports
Murray Evans, Sports Information Director

RØDDING, Denmark – Oscar Stark, who posted so many big-time wins during his playing days at Oklahoma Christian, scored the biggest win of his professional career on Sunday by taking the Made in Denmark Challenge at Royal Oak Golf Club.

The 28-year-old Stark birdied two of his final four holes to give him his first win on the European Challenge Tour, which is roughly equivalent to the Web.com Tour in the U.S. The win vaulted him into seventh place on the tour’s money list, important because the top 15 players at season’s end will earn full playing privileges on the European Tour for 2018.

Stark was on the leaderboard all weekend, opening with a 6-under-par 66 and following that with rounds of 67 and 72 before recording a 69 on Sunday. He finished at 14-under-par 274, two shots better than the trio of Adrien Saddier of France, Dominic Foos of Germany and Victor Perez of France.

“It feels amazing to be a Challenge Tour winner, it’s pretty surreal – I don’t really understand it yet but I guess on the ferry home I might,” Stark said. “This is big for my season. I’m into the Rolex Trophy now and it now means I will focus on the Challenge Tour, because I played a few European Tour events at the beginning of the year.

“I made a couple of cuts there and played steady, I learned a lot of things about my game so I think that really helped me play so well this week, but now the top 15 is the goal, it’s the way to go and hopefully I can continue this good play and secure a European Tour card.”

Stark, from Gothenburg, Sweden, was a four-time NAIA All-America selection from 2008 to 2011 at OC, receiving first-team honors the final three years. He was a part of teams that won the NAIA title in 2009 and 2011 and as a senior in 2011, he received the Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus Awards after earning individual medalist honors at the NAIA Championship.

He has been working his way toward the European Tour for several years. Last year, he posted three top-five finishes on the Challenge Tour and reached the final stage of qualifying for the European Tour. He didn’t make the European Tour, but did earn himself full playing privileges on the Challenge Tour for 2017.

He now has 35,153 points on the Challenge Tour’s “Road to Oman,” putting him in seventh place, nearly 10,000 points ahead of the 16th-ranked player. The Challenge Tour is comprised of 27 tournaments in 21 countries. Twenty tournaments remain on the Tour in 2017, capped by the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat, Oman.

On Sunday, he birdied two of his first four holes before a bogey on the par-3 No. 5 – only his fourth bogey of the tournament – moved him back to 12-under for the tournament. He took the lead with a long birdie putt on the par-4 No. 15 and sealed the win with another birdie on the par-4 No. 18.

“I didn’t really know how I was standing out there,” Stark said. “I made a long birdie putt on 15, that was huge, but I managed to keep it together over the last few holes and I knew I would be close.

“I was trying to take it shot by shot and just breathe out there, focus on every shot and try to ignore anything else going on around me – I knew birdieing the last was then enough.”