England’s Richard Finch produced a performance to match the grandeur of his surroundings at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown to claim his first professional title with a three stroke victory in the Michael Hill New Zealand Open.
Just a few weeks ago Finch was battling to save his card and left it until his final event of the 2007 season before climbing into the all important top 115 by finishing joint seventh in the Mallorca Classic. Now, just four events into a new campaign, he put all that behind him with a commanding victory over the Australian pair of Steven Bowditch and Paul Sheehan.
A record crowd of 9, 017 gathered to watch Finch, the overnight leader by three strokes, try to hold his advantage and with nine holes remaining, the 30 year old had pulled six strokes clear of his nearest challengers.
And he finally made that maiden breakthrough when he holed a 12 foot par putt on the 18th for a level par 72, following rounds of 73, 65 and 64 for a total of 14 under par 274.
While he didn't set the course alight as he did in setting a course record 65 on Friday - subsequently broken by Peter Fowler's 62 - before going one lower the following day, his lead was always safe.
He was able to settle into a comfortable rhythm as his challengers faltered.
Starting the day second on his own at 11 under par, Bowditch suffered five bogeys to drop out of contention. A monster putt on the 17th for eagle got him back to level par, finishing in a tie for second with compatriot Paul Sheehan at 11 under par.
Sheehan climbed into a share of second place with five birdies and two bogeys in a solid 69.
Four players tied for fourth at ten under, with a pair of 66s for Aussie Craig Parry and Swede Alexander Noren - the equal best rounds of the day alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson - moved them up alongside Steven Jeffress and Matthew Millar.
As Finch marched to victory, the crowd were also privileged a special moment in New Zealand golfing history in the early afternoon. Sir Bob Charles, who actually had to be convinced to play at The Hills this week and was offered a special invitation to do so, signed off on a performance he called the best he has put together in over a decade.
The 71 year old shot his age or better for the third day in a row, finishing on four under for the tournament with rounds of 75, 68, 71 and a final round of two under par 70.