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Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, Mar 12 (Reuters) Local favourite Mardan Mamat struggled to contain his emotions after winning the Singapore Masters today, but fought back the tears long enough to say he was looking forward to playing in Europe.

Mardan held his nerve down the back nine for a one-stroke victory over defending champion Nick Dougherty at the $1 million co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event, becoming the first Singaporean to triumph in a tour event on home soil.

Mardan picked up 166,000 dollars for the win and a two-year exemption for the European Tour.

''After missing a few cuts by one stroke recently, I think the gods were fair to me this week and let me win,'' he told reporters.

''This is what I have dreamed for, to win a big event in Singapore. Especially a co-sanctioned tournament. I think it's the biggest achievement in my life.

''It opens more doors for me and I will definitely play a few events in Europe.'' The 38 year old, who has been a trailblazer for Singapore golf since turning professional in 1994, said he hoped the win would help breed more success for the city state.

''I hope I inspired all the young Singaporeans to achieve what I have achieved now,'' Mardan said.

''It's a good feeling that I am finding hard to express. I hope the win will inspire young kids who love golf.'' NEAR MISSES Following a number of near misses on the Asian Tour, Mardan made his breakthrough with a maiden title at the 2004 Indian Open following a blistering 65 in the final round.

He was also the first man from Singapore to qualify for the British Open, at Royal Troon in 1997 and again last year at St Andrews.

An opening 65 on the par-72 Laguna National Golf and Country Club helped pave the way for victory, and he followed that with solid rounds of 70, 70 and 71 to take the title with a 12-under 276 total.

''I just kept myself relaxed and focused on what I wanted to do,'' added Mardan, who practices yoga to help remain calm on the course.

''I just kept myself relaxed and played my own game. That was the key to my success.'' As well as helping the Asian side overcome Japan in the 2005 Dynasty Cup, Mardan teamed up with Lam Chih Bing to qualify for last year's WGC World Cup.

REUTERS PDS BS1746

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