Nathan Holman landed a dream maiden professional victory on home soil as he overcame Dylan Frittelli and Harold Varner III in a play-off to win the Australian PGA Championship.
On another tough day at RACV Royal Pines Resort, Holman was two shots clear with two holes to play in regulation but bogeyed both to set the clubhouse target at level par.
American Varner III and South Africa’s Frittelli were unable to find a birdie over the closing stretch, however, and at the first extra hole both missed the green as Australian Homan won with a par.
The 24 year old had started the day two off the lead, and his chances of victory had seemed remote after a double bogey on the opening hole.
But a birdie from five feet at the ninth was followed by further gains at the 12th and 15th as a closing 73 proved good enough to force extra holes.
As well as becoming a full Member of The European Tour and guaranteeing entry to some of the biggest tournaments on the global stage, Holman’s victory helped him win the Australian PGA’s Order of Merit for 2015, and with it a place in The 2016 Open at Royal Troon as well as entry to World Golf Championships in the USA and China.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “Walking off that 18th hole when I hit that shot onto the green, it started to feel like the legs were a little bit shaky, probably thinking into the future a little bit and I tried to snap out of that. Obviously had a little bit of help there with the two guys making bogey in the play-off, but to win the event, it’s an amazing feeling.
“To be a full Member of The European Tour is huge. I didn’t realise what was on the line really, which is probably a good thing to be honest.
“I did think I’d get to those events in the future but didn’t think it was going to be this quickly. For a young Australian guy to be able to go and play those events, play British Opens, it’s stuff you dream of playing golf when you’re a kid, to get into those events, just to play them.
“It’s going to be an amazing feeling and to do it off the back of a victory I think is probably going to be better. I’ve deserved it, so I can go there knowing that I’ve done something really good to be here.”
Frittelli, his compatriot Zander Lombard and Varner III had shared the overnight lead on three under, but like Holman all three dropped early shots.
Strong winds and a parched links layout gradually whittled down the contenders, but when 22 year old Cameron Smith dropped three shots in his last six holes to finish on two over it left those in the final two pairings as the only serious challengers.
Frittelli had turned in 40, but the 25 year old took advantage of the long 12th and holed a birdie putt from off the green at the next to get back into the mix.
However, he came up short of the 14th green and bogeyed just as Holman was converting a five footer on the 15th to reach two under, and moments later Varner III saw his drive on the same hole find the water.
That led to a dropped shot which left Holman two clear, but he fired over the back of the 17th green with his approach and also dropped a shot at the last after coming up short of the putting surface to leave the door ajar.
Frittelli and Varner III did not exactly burst through it, but parred their way in to make the play-off – both missing lengthy putts to snatch victory on the 18th in regulation.All three contenders missed the fairway at the first extra hole, but crucially it was Holman who found the green with his approach and, with neither opponent salvaging par, he tapped in to earn a €225,251 payday.
Frittelli said: “I fought hard today, made a couple of mistakes early but really showed my mettle and finished strongly on the back nine. I’m very proud of the way I played.”Varner III is about to embark on a first season on the US PGA Tour after graduating from the Web.com Tour and added: “That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
|1||VARNER III, Harold||USA||18||-19|
|T6||VAN DRIEL, Darius||NED||18||-8|