Victorian amateur Brett Coletta was all class on and off the course as he became the first amateur since Stuart Appleby in 1991 to win the Isuzu Queensland Open.
Cool and composed during the 72-holes, Coletta, 20, was emotional after his victory which provided a triumphant ending to a roller-coaster two weeks.
Gutted after narrowly missing a trip to the 2017 Masters when he finished runner-up in the Asia-Pacific Championship in Korea, Coletta only gained a late entry to the Queensland Open field when former top amateur Cameron Davis turned professional.
He closed with an even-par 70 at The Brisbane Golf Club to finish at seven-under and prevailed by three strokes over rookie pro Lucas Herbert (69) who staged a spirited challenge to move within a stroke of Coletta late in the final round.
“The way I handled myself today was the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
“I’m lost for words and can’t explain how I feel.
“Obviously I was very disappointed after what happened in Korea. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
“But to come back this week and finish on top makes me so proud of myself.”
Coletta was close to tears as he spoke and acknowledged the support of his family during the harrowing time.
“My mother travelled to Queensland and kept me from getting side tracked,” he said.
“I will definitely be giving her a big cuddle and having a good chat when I get a chance. Mum’s quite reserved, she prefers to stay in the background.”
Coletta conceded he felt the pressure after his early five shot lead was reduced to one after Herbert made eagle on the 12th hole and then birdie on the par-3, 13th, after almost holing-in-one.
Then Coletta made his first error of the day to double-bogey the 14th and his lead was under threat.
“When Herbie eagled I thought I could put that aside, but he hit a great shot on the next hole and made birdie.
“I made a good three but then had that error on the 14th and things had changed.”
Coletta retained a one stroke advantage after both parred the 15th but Herbert bogeyed 16 and then a timely 30ft birdie putt by Coletta on 17 stretched the lead to three.
The winner said he would now seriously consider turning professional.
“This win gives me a two-year exemption to Australasian Tour events and I will have some serious discussions with a number of people before deciding what to do,” he said.
Herbert, a former Victorian amateur teammate of Coletta, played aggressively to collect the winner’s cheque of $16,500.
“I will take the positives out of the day even though I’m not holding the trophy,” said Herbert.
“Brett was playing really well early and I thought ‘how are we going to catch him?’,” said Herbert.
“Then after the 12th and 13th holes I thought I was a chance … it was a good duel.
“But he played very well and deserved to win.”
Tied for third at three-under were Tasmanian Kalem Richardson who finished strongly with a 67 and Dale Brandt-Richards (NSW) who had a 70.
Two shots adrift were six players who tied fifth at one-under for the tournament. They including Jarryd Felton (WA) who shot the day’s low round of 65.
Others to share fifth place were Ben Campbell (NZ), Queensland amateur Doug Klein, James Gibellini, Ryan Lynch and Max McCardle.
Klein, 19, from the Redcliffe Golf Club, closed with a 67.
Victorian amateur David Micheluzzi provided plenty of early excitement when he notched seven straight birdies before settling for a 66.
7-under: Brett Coletta (am Vic)
4-under: Lucas Herbert (Vic)
3-under: Kalem Richardson (Tas), Dale Brandt-Richards (NSW)
1-under: Jarryd Felton (WA), Ben Campbell (NZ), Dough Klein (am Qld), James Gibellini (Qld), Ryan Lynch (Vic), Max McCardle (SA).
See full results list – click here