In only his third professional event, former Cox High star Brinson Paolini earned his first title Sunday on the European Challenge Tour.
Paolini won the Le Vaudreuil Challenge in France by one shot after a final-round 4-under 68. He earned 28,800 euros (a little more than $38,200) - more importantly, he earned a spot on the Challenge Tour for the rest of the season and gave himself a chance to earn full status on the European Tour next season.
"I played well in my first two tournaments... but golf is really about winning so getting my first professional 'W' here in France is very satisfying," Paolini wrote in an email to the Pilot. "It may seem like it came kind of quick but I've been working hard toward it in college and amateur golf for a long time and it feels good having things come together."
When thunderstorms postponed Saturday's third round, Paolini was seven shots behind leader Sihwan Kim. Kim led by as many as four shots during the final round, but struggled on the final nine holes and finished with a 2-over 74. He tied for second.
"I didn't look at a scoreboard for the first 17 holes but after my drive on the... 18th my caddie (Virginia Beach resident and frequent golf partner Skip Zobel) suggested that I take a look. When I saw where I stood I knew I needed eagle or birdie on 18 to have a chance so I played aggressively," Paolini said.
He made birdie on the hole, and won when Kim made a bogey.
Paolini turned pro earlier this month, after graduating from Duke and shortly after winning his fourth Virginia State Amateur title. He headed to Europe after he was invited to play in two events on the Challenge Tour - a second-tier circuit similar to the Web.com Tour in the U.S.
He tied for second in that first event, the Swiss Challenge, then tied for 25th last week at the Mugello Tuscany Open.
He already is 11th on the tour in prize money.
When he embarked for Europe, Paolini said he planned to play as many events as possible. On Sunday, with a spot on the Challenge Tour assured and a spot on the top-tier European Tour within his grasp, he put together a more detailed schedule.
Paolini said he will return to the U.S. to play in this week's Web.com Tour event in Pennsylvania, then return to Europe for the Challenge Tour's Norwegian Challenge.
After that, he said, he'll take a week off.
"My goal is to play myself on to the European Tour and then play well there so ultimately I get privileges on the PGA Tour in the U.S.," he said.
"That's down the road, though, and there's a lot to do between now and then."
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