SIMON THORNTON is hopeful his maiden European Tour victory at the St Omer Open will be a catalyst for future triumphs.
The Irishman beat Tjaart van der Walt on the first play-off hole in northern France after the pair finished on five under par after 72 holes.
That meant they had to go back up the 18th and while Thornton claimed a routine par with a tap-in, Van der Walt bogeyed the hole for the first time this week to hand him the title.
"Hopefully this is a stepping stone for me," said Thornton.
"I'll go home this week now and celebrate, take a week off, and then play in the Irish Open.
"To come here and play like I did is incredible. What happens now with this category is fantastic, it's mad how things have changed. It's surreal."
It was an emotional victory for Thornton, who dedicated the win to his late father.
"It's so big for me," said a tearful Thornton.
"On Father's Day, too, he passed away three years ago and it still hurts, but they are happy tears today. This is dedicated to him.
"I didn't play particularly well today in perfect conditions, but I got up and down when I had to and holed good putts.
"On the last putt, I had been saying to myself all day, if I'm going to make it easy for myself I need to try on every putt and make sure it goes where you want to hit it, so I just picked a line and willed it in and it dropped."
Thornton had got off to a flying start with birdies at the first and third before a dropped shot at four.
The Irishman dropped a shot at seven, but quickly recovered it at the next before a further bogey on nine got him to the turn in level-par 36.
He then birdied 10 and parred all the way home to finish on five under.
Van der Walt also birdied the first, but dropped a shot at five before a double bogey at eight sandwiched by two birdies kept him level for the front nine.
A further birdie on 12 followed, but a run of pars saw the South African into the play-off.