Cockerill tied for fifth at Challenge Tour event in France

Aaron Cockerill of Gunton, Man. had a season's best finish at the Hopps Open de Provence Challenge Tour event, finishing in a tie for fifth place, which took place from Sept. 26 to 29, 2019. (Photo credit: Twitter/@Challenge_Tour)

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Aaron Cockerill made his biggest step towards solidifying his tour status for next season after one of the best results in his professional career.

The Gunton product was tied for the clubhouse lead after the third round at the Hopps Open de Provence at Mallemort, France, which took place from Sept. 25 to 28, and ended up tied for fifth at 13-under par, three strokes back of winner Lars van Meijel of The Netherlands. It was Cockerill’s best showing on the European Challenge Tour since finishing tied for 17th two weeks earlier at the Open de Portugal.

“I’ve been playing well lately the last couple of events. I’ve been around the lead the last eight rounds of tournament play. My ball striking has been solid and I’ve been playing smart as well,” he wrote in an email to The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times.

With his performance in France, Cockerill earned his biggest payday on tour at €8,133.30 ($11,782.56) and went up the Challenge Tour’s Order of Merit from 89th to 60th, becoming the tour’s top North American. The top 45 players qualify for the season-ending Grand Final in Mallorca, Spain, as well as some European Tour events next season.

Cockerill went on a tear in the first round, shooting six straight birdies on the front nine on his way to six-under, one stroke back of the lead on Sept. 25. In the second round, starting at the 10th hole, he shot a bogey on the 11th but recovered with an eagle on the 13th. Cockerill added three more birdies before shooting two bogeys for a round of two-under and eight-under overall. He later shot two bogeys in the front nine of the third round, but ending up carding five birdies for three-under and 11-under overall, tied for the lead after three rounds.

“I just hit it pretty good,” Cockerill said in a video posted by the Challenge Tour. “I had some two-putt birdies and didn’t miss a lot of greens, lot of two putts … I haven’t really been in this position before.”

In the final round, Cockerill hit a bogey on the second and a birdie on the fourth. After a birdie on the 11th and a bogey on the 13th, he shot three straight birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes to make a charge for top spot. Tied for third going into the final hole, Cockerill shot a bogey on the 18th to end his tournament.

“I tried to take (the) driver over the corner in an attempt to make eagle. It didn’t work out but I don’t regret the decision. I was playing to win,” he wrote to The Argus and Times.

Cockerill is playing in the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour in Morocco from Oct. 3 to 6 on the same course he played at the Trophée Hassan II European Tour event in April where Cockerill missed the cut.