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Hope of Ray sunk

He was hoping history would repeat itself, but the golfing gods conspired to ensure lightning wouldn't strike twice.

Two years ago, Raymond Russell earned promotion to the European Tour by the skin of his teeth in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final. Yesterday, the Scot missed out by the narrowest of margins as his Challenge Tour campaign drew to an agonising conclusion in southern Italy.

Russell needed to move from 22nd on the money list and into the top 21 to secure a return to the main circuit but, despite a spirited back-nine rally en route to a closing two-under 69, the 40-year-old's share of 14th on 11-under 273 saw him miss out by a single place.

When the money list was totted up, Russell found himself a mere €160 behind 21st-placed Daniel Brooks, who held on grimly to the final promotion spot, having finished last in the 45-man field on the Adriatic coast.

As in the 2010 Grand Final, which ended with him easing into the qualifying zone by just €920, Russell mounted a late surge but this time there would be no fairytale finish.

A double bogey on the par-3 eighth put the former European Tour winner on the back foot but a battling four-under inward half, bolstered by a trio of birdies at 13, 14 and 15, repaired the damage. In the end, though, it was not quite enough.

"My mate said to me the night before the final round, 'just get on the leaderboard as early as possible,' but that double bogey put paid to that pretty quickly," admitted Russell, a winner on the second-tier circuit in Italy back in June.

"Having dragged myself back two years ago, it was nice to have something to draw on. I was two over after five the last time and shot six under from the sixth tee. I thought, 'if you've done it once you can do it again,' so I did that. I gave it a go."

As Russell's week came to a disappointing end, Greenock's Chris Doak, who had already clinched promotion to the top table, set the seal on a fine season by sharing seventh on 13-under 271 after a final round of 69 and finished 10th on the rankings.

Scott Henry, the winner of September's Kazakhstan Open, sagged to a 74 for 284 but his 11th-place finish on the money list also gave him a strong card for 2013 European Tour.

At the head of the field, Norway's Espen Kofstad enjoyed a double success as he closed with a four-under 67 for 19-under 265 to take the €56,650 first prize and secure the No 1 position in the final rankings.

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