Melbourne-based Korean Jin Jeong has given his fledgling professional career a shot in the arm with victory in the rich ISPS HANDA Perth International at Lake Karrinyup.
The 23-year-old finished tied with experienced Englishman Ross Fisher at 10-under 278 after 72 holes but sealed the title on the first extra play-off hole.
It was his first win as a professional although he had won the Tasmanian Open as an amateur.
Jeong was twice the world No.1 amateur in 2010, the year he won the British Amateur Championship and also finished 14th in the British Open.
He had to overcome a poor start to fight his way through the field in the $2million Perth tournament.
“I was nervous, I was shaking but I controlled myself pretty well all day I thought," he said.
But he was still trying to come to grips with winning one of Australia’s richest events after such a brief time as a pro.
"I don’t know what I’ve done to be honest,” he said.
“Playing with Ross Fisher in the play-off, it was unbelievable. He’s one of my heroes as well.”
Although he began the final round one shot off the lead, he stumbled at the start with a double bogey before regaining his composure.
“It was a little bit disappointing but this course is pretty tough, so six can be on your scorecard pretty easily,” Jeong said.
“I just tried to calm myself down and focus on what I could do from there. I think I did a pretty good job after that.”
Despite his standout amateur career, Jeong said he found the transition to the pro ranks tough and believes this win will propel him to a more confident approach.
“It means a lot. I was waiting for something like this for a long time,” he said. “I was struggling quite a bit when I turned pro. I learned a lot from that and it showed up today.”
The victory has enormous significance for Jeong, who now has full status on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the European Tour as well as a start at the lucrative HSBC Champions in two weeks.
“I was going to go back to Q School Second Stage the week after next but I guess I don’t have to anymore,” he said. “I knew if I won this, I would have status on the European Tour for two years, so I was working really hard to play well this week.”
Fisher fought his way into the playoff with a final round 68 and despite losing the tournament, was happy to be in contention at the end.
“Obviously it would have been lovely to come here and win, but that’s golf,” Fisher said. “I just unfortunately came up a little bit short, but can be very pleased with the way I played today.
“I hung in there really well. It was always going to be tough.”
Overnight leader, West Australian Brody Ninyette, was cruising through the final round before a bogey on the par four 13th brought him unstuck and began a downward spiral.
“It was a pretty solid day. I wasn’t hitting it that well on the range and my warm up wasn’t too good,” Ninyette said.
“I thought my course management was good enough to get me in. My putter failed me the last few holes, that was it.”
Ninyette and Tour rookie Dimitrios Papadatos finished as leading Australians, tied for third at eight under the card on 280 along with Englishman Danny Willett.
“Leading into the week, if somebody told me I’d be tied third or fourth, I’d be stoked,” Ninyette said. “My main objective from this tournament onwards, was trying to save my card for next year so I’m pretty happy.” He is now in second spot on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
Finishing outright sixth on seven-under 281 was home-town favourite Brett Rumford, while a shot further back was Swede Joel Sjoholm, Briton Richard Finch (ENG) and Denmark’s JB Hansen.
The next PGA Tour of Australasia event will be the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines from November 7–10.
By: Robert Grant