Levy win highlights rise of French golf stars
Alexander Levy during the final round of the Volvo China Open at Genzon Golf Club in on April 27, 2014 - by Paul Lakatos
The 23-year-old secured the first European Tour victory of his short career on Sunday, triumphing by four shots at Shenzhen's par-72 Genzon Golf Club to collect prize winnings of $530,000.
France has only ever had one major winner -- Arnaud Massy, who won the British Open way back in 1907 -- but recent successes have sparked hopes that the century-long drought could soon be ended.
Levy, whose previous best finish in a tournament was third at last year's BMW International Open, never gave up the lead he grabbed at the halfway stage with a sublime round of 62 on Friday.
The Frenchman's maiden title comes hot on the heels of a string of successes for several of his compatriots on tour -- notably the enigmatic Victor Dubuisson, who has shot up the rankings.
Levy said that the French players take inspiration from each other and are a tight-knit group -- highlighted by the traditional champagne showering on the 18th green which greets first-time winners.
"We have some great players in France, both young and old and we all have a great relationship," said Levy after winning the 20th edition of China's national championship.
- 'Great wins' -
"There have been some great wins for Victor, Julien Quesne, Greg Bourdy and Raphael Jacquelin over the past couple of years," he added.
Dubuisson, 24, started last year at 134th in the world rankings but rose to 23rd after winning the Turkish Airlines Open in November and following it up with three top-10 finishes.
One of those was runner-up at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in which he wowed audiences around the world with several spectacular escape shots in the final against Jason Day.
"What he has done over the past few months has been amazing and it has really had an effect on all the French players so hopefully I can try to emulate that," eventual winner Levy said of Dubuisson after his second-round 62 in Shenzhen.
Last year, Bourdy, 32, won the ISPS Handa Wales Open while 33-year-old Quesne won in Italy and Jacquelin, 39, won the Spanish Open.
All three had decent weeks at the China Open. Bourdy and Quesne finished tied for 19th at seven-under while Jacquelin was a shot further back at joint 24th.
Another, Romain Wattel, finished three-under.
"It's great for French golf and great with the Ryder Cup coming to France in 2018," said Levy. "I think we all want to do well for the Ryder Cup."
In four years, France will host the biennial Europe v United States showpiece at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris for the first time.
Gleneagles in Scotland is hosting the event this September, with Dubuisson, who did not play in China, currently topping the points list in the race to make Europe's 12-man team.
Jean van de Velde came close to breaking France's long major drought at the 1999 British Open but blew a three-shot lead going down the last, while Thomas Levet finished second at the same event in 2002.