Vilamoura, Portugal – It took Tom Lewis only three professional starts before he became a champion on the European Tour.
The 20-year-old finished at 21-under 267 and won by two strokes at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course.
While he's neither the youngest winner in tour history nor the quickest, Lewis' accomplishment was nonetheless impressive.
He shared 30th at the Open Championship, then turned professional after the Walker Cup. Lewis got into the field at the Austrian GolfOpen and tied for 10th. The following week, Lewis didn't play great at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but made the cut en route to a 70th-place finish.
Lewis was trying to earn enough money to avoid Q School, and a runner-up performance probably would've placed him safely in the top 115 in the Race to Dubai. But with the victory, Lewis is exempt for the next two years and is poised to do even bigger things in professional golf.
"I wouldn't expect that at all," Lewis said in a televised interview. "I was really dreading going to tour school at the end of the year, but it looks like I can skip that and I'm so pleased.
"I played really well this week."
Third-round leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello shot a one-under 71 and finished second at minus-19.
Gregory Havret (64), David Lynn (64), George Coetzee (65), Felipe Aguilar (71) and Christian Nilsson (71) shared third place at 18-under 270.
Lewis began the final round four shots behind Cabrera-Bello and started brilliantly with a four-foot birdie at No. 1. He made a six-footer for birdie at the fifth, but was still down the leaderboard.
It was a spectacular run after the turn, coupled with the leaders failing to make any type of move, that jumped Lewis into the mix.
At the par-five 12th, Lewis reached the green in two, then two-putted for birdie from 60 feet. He was 17-under par for the championship and close to first.
Lewis drained an eight-foot birdie putt at the 14th to get within one, but one hole later, he tied for the lead with a two-putt birdie at the par-four 15th after he drove the green.
He came up short with his tee ball at the par-three 16th, but he rolled in the 30-foot birdie putt from the fringe to take sole possession of the lead.
Lewis padded his advantage at the par-five 17th. He landed on the putting surface in two again and lagged his long eagle putt to tap-in range. The birdie got him to 21-under par and three in front.
He nearly birdied the last, but signed for his 65 and waited. Cabrera-Bello made things interesting with three birdies in a row from the 15th, but when his approach didn't spin back into the hole at the 18th, the title belonged to Lewis.
"I've got a long way to go, but I'm so pleased to have won this week," said Lewis. "If you said I'd finish 21-under, I'd have said 'no way.'"
Now, Lewis has the two-year exemption and can change his schedule for the remainder of this season.
"I haven't thought about it as yet. Obviously the schedule will have changed. I have time to sit down and look at it what I'll play the rest of the year," he said on TV.
NOTES: Seven players won their European Tour debuts and Matteo Manassero was 17 when he won last year...Lewis matched Richard Green's 65 from last year's final round to come from behind for the win...The European moves to Spain next week for the Castello Masters at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, where Manassero won last year.