Date: December 06, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Groundbreaking PGA win for Holman

Nathan Holman has emerged as another bright new star of this country's golf after a playoff win at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast.

Holman, 24, a former Victorian amateur champion, has spent three years playing professionally in Asia and Europe with solid results, yet without earning much attention.

But the boy from Woodlands Golf Club in the famous Melbourne sandbelt is unequivocally on the radar now. His first win as a professional has come in one of Australia's Big Three tournaments, posting a three-over 75 today for even par overall, and beating Dylan Frittelli of South Africa and American Harry Varner with a par in the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

A member of Golf Australia's rookie program for talented, young pros, Holman endured a rollercoaster on the final day. Starting out two shots behind, he promptly double bogeyed the opening hole after a blocked tee shot and two hits to extricate himself from the trees.

But nobody was dominating Graham Marsh's new Royal Pines layout; ultimately no one would break par for the 72 holes.

Holman hit the lead late on the back nine with a great pitch shot and birdie at the 15th hole, and with the other contenders, Varner and Frittelli struggling, the Victorian Institute of Sport product's lead stretched to two shots as he walked to the 16th tee.

Then the nerves kicked in. At the 17th and 18th, he missed greens and could not get up and down, giving back two shots and signing for an even-par tournament score. Varner had drawn level and his putt for birdie to win at the 18th in regulation play just slid to the right of the hole, much to Holman's relief.

In the end it was a three-way playoff down the 18th for the second consecutive year, and both Varner and Frittelli made a mess of it. Varner could not reach the green for two from the rough and made bogey, while Frittelli's second shot to the green raced through the back. Both made bogey.

Holman was rock solid, hitting the fairway and then the green. By the time he stood over a par putt from inside a metre, he knew that his immediate future rode on it. He stroked it in easily.

The victory gives him a two-year exemption to play on the European Tour, which had been his aim all along. It also gives him victory in the Australasian Tour order of merit which carries a spot in the Open Championship at Royal Troon next year, and a place in the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.

"It was crazy,'' he said afterward. "That double start, and then (I) played nicely again, and to try and lose it again was pretty annoying. It was a tough wait in that scorers' hut but to do it again in the playoff was pleasing.''

Holman won most of the trappings of the amateur scene as a youth, the Riversdale Cup and the Master of the Amateurs, and he has graduated nicely as a professional, contending through two rounds at the 2013 Australian Masters where at one point he shared the lead with Adam Scott, and 10th in the Emirates Australian Open in 2014. His best finish in Asia is second and he was 25th on the money list last year.

Along with Queenslander Cameron Smith, who finished fifth today and who also had a chance of winning, Holman represents the bright, new face of Australian professional golf.