Friday, 19 March 2010
2009 Johnnie Walker Classic: Day 4  (Getty Images)
2009 Johnnie Walker Classic: Day 4 (Getty Images)

New Zealand amateur Danny Lee is looking forward to a bright future after making history by becoming the youngest ever winner of a European Tour tournament with a one stroke victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic.

The teenager carded a closing five under par 67 at The Vines Resort & Country Club to finish on 17 under, one shot ahead of Ross McGowan of England, Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan and Chile's Felipe Aguilar.

At the age of 18 years and 213 days, Lee surpassed the record of Dale Hayes at the 1971 Spanish Open and also became only the second amateur after 2007 Estoril Open de Portugal champion Pablo Martin to win on The European Tour.

He showed nerves of steel to secure the title with a birdie on the final hole in the £1.25million event, which is sanctioned by The European, Asian and Australasian Tours, but appeared far more nervous when he faced the media after his momentous victory.

"My English is not 100 per cent and I get really nervous when I'm doing the media stuff. It doesn't mean I hate it because I like it," said Lee, who was born in South Korea but moved to New Zealand at the age of eight.

"It still feels like I'm in dreamland. Hopefully no-one wakes me up.

"I was dreaming about winning but my goal was to make the cut after two rounds and to try to get into the top 20 or top ten. I played extremely well the last few days and yeah, here I am.

"You know winning a European Tour event, it's pretty amazing what I've done."

Lee entered the final round two shots behind overnight joint leaders McGowan and John Bickerton and was still in the chasing pack on 13 under after three birdies and two bogeys through his first 12 holes.

But the New Zealander, who also became the youngest winner of the US Amateur Open last August, accelerated down the closing holes, picking up consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th and saving par with a clutch putt on the 16th.

Lee emphasised the importance of that 12 foot putt which came after he almost sent his tee shot into the water.

"I was at 15 under and the leader was at 16 so I was thinking, this is the putt if you want to win the tournament," said Lee, who pumped his fist after the ball dropped.

"I was really focused on the putt and I made it."

He sank a six foot birdie at the 17th to join clubhouse leader Fujita at the top of the leaderboard and secured the win by finding the green in two on the par five 18th and two putting from 25 feet.

Lee will turn professional after the Masters Tournament in April and is setting his sights extremely high.

"I can't compare to Tiger Woods because he's one of the greatest players in the world and he's the number one ranked player in the world.

"All I want to do is just break what he's done. Obviously I can't win three US Amateurs in a row but I'll try to break his records on the PGA Tour."

While Lee celebrated his win, McGowan was left to reflect on what might have been.

The 2006 English Amateur champion entered the final round in a tie for the lead with John Bickerton on 14 under and held a two stroke advantage after holing an eagle on the ninth and a birdie on the 12th to improve to 17 under.

But the nerves appeared to get to the 26 year old on the closing holes as he bogeyed the 14th and 16th to drop to 15 under. He closed with a birdie at the final hole but it was not enough for his first European Tour title.

"I played pretty nicely all day and on the back nine, I had several in between yardages and I was reliant on the wind. I dropped a couple of shots in those and it was frustrating really. It is one of those when I felt like I played nicely," said McGowan, who closed with a two under 70.

"I stuck to my game plan, hit the ball solid and played nicely. I just didn't quite get the breaks.

"I can take a lot of confidence because I played superbly all week. Hopefully I can get into the winning group in Indonesia next week."

Aguilar had five birdies and a bogey in his round of 68 while Fujita, a six time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, made seven birdies and two bogeys in his closing 67.

"I did my best and played a near perfect round. I missed a few putts but still holed some which kind of evened out," said Fujita.

"All credit to Danny Lee as he is a very good player."

John Bickerton (71) and France's Raphaёl Jacquelin (69) finished in a tie for fifth on 15 under while Lee Westwood closed with a 67 to join Australians Michael Sim (69) and Adam Blyth (67) in joint seventh a further shot back.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LEE, DannyNZL18-17
T2AGUILAR, FelipeCHI18-16
T2McGOWAN, RossENG18-16
T2FUJITA, HiroyukiJPN18-16
T5JACQUELIN, RaphaëlFRA18-15
T5BICKERTON, JohnENG18-15
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