Frenchman Alex Levy was the last man standing in the inaugural Hero Challenge under floodlights this evening as an impressive stadium crowd of 2,200 watched the one-hole knockout contest at The Grove.
Levy defeated Sweden’s Alex Noren in the final over the specially constructed 156 yard par three on The Grove’s 18th hole to claim the £10,000 first prize for charity.
The action – which took place two days before the venue hosts the British Masters supported by Sky Sports – was shown live on Sky Sports, with former cricketer Shane Warne winning the four-man celebrity shootout, defeating Kevin Pietersen, Piers Morgan and Brian McFadden.
In the shootout for the professionals, Levy showed the sort of skill and nerve which helped him win the Porsche European Open last month, and he celebrated in a similar style to his win in Germany in front of a packed grandstand which was treated to the first event of its kind on the European Tour.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Levy. “I said to Alex Noren, I felt more pressure there than in the play-off in Germany, which is ridiculous.
“It was amazing to see the crowds and everyone enjoying it. Golf needs something like this and it is a great idea. We did the Fastest Par Five earlier this year which was great fun and this was amazing too. I really enjoyed it, and of course it is always nice to win.”
Levy was firing his tee shots to the green throughout the knockout contest and it was his shot to 15ft in the final which ultimately helped him win the inaugural contest, with the Frenchman two-putting for par. Like Levy, runner-up Noren was also a big fan of the innovative new format.
“This was similar to a tournament in that you want to hit a good shot, but there was a bit more pressure in some ways because of the crowd,” he said. “It was fantastic to see so many come out and support it, and it was great. I would love to do more of this.”
Levy had progressed from his opening round match play clash by defeating Englishman Andy Sullivan before taking out Luke Donald in the semi-final, after former World Number One Donald had seen off India’s Jeev Milkha Singh in the first stage.
In the other half of the draw, Noren beat Austrian Bernd Wiesberger before dispatching Ireland’s Shane Lowry in the semi-final after Lowry had emerged from the ‘Battle of the Beards’ with Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston in the previous round.
The players will now turn their attention to the British Masters itself on Thursday, and tournament host Donald believes the Hero Challenge was a terrific addition to the tournament.
He said: “The crowds were amazing and we had a great turnout. The nerves were jiggling a little bit and it was different to what we are used to. It was a lot of fun though and unique so I really liked it.”
European Tour www.europeantour.com