A final hole birdie has seen Sydney golfer Matthew Giles snatch a dramatic victory in the Victorian Open at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads.
On an action-packed final day played in front of massive crowds that lined the fairways of the Beach Course, Giles claimed his first professional victory on home soil with a one-shot win over young Victorian amateur Nathan Holman and Ryan Lynch.
Giles finished the tournament on 13-under par following a final day bogey-free round of 67.
Playing in the same group as Giles, Lynch had a birdie putt on the final hole to force a play-off, but it lipped out.
Playing in the final group, Holman had an opportunity to take Giles to extra holes, but his 12-footer missed to the left of the cup.
As many as a dozen players throughout the day shared the lead or were in contention to take out the tournament, making the final few holes tense.
Giles said he snuck a look at the leaderboard on the 15th tee and knew what his equation was.
“I thought I’d probably have to birdie three of the last four holes to be a chance and I birdied two,’’ Giles said.
“It actually got a little bit difficult there on 18, the wind switched and it played a lot longer than it had previously done this week and fortunately the birdie was enough to get it done.
“I turned (after nine holes) one under and probably should have been at least three or four (under). I gave myself a talking to walking to the 10th tee and made a birdie there and that kind of kicked things off on the back nine.’’
Giles endured a difficult 2012, on and off the course, losing his card on the secondary Web.com Tour in America.
But he said winning the Victorian Open was a great confidence boost for the rest of the year.
“I didn’t have the greatest 2012 and didn’t have a very good summer back here to finish off so went to Q-school and regained some status (on the PGA Tour of Australasia) at least for this year,’’ Giles said.
“Now the win takes care of that with an exemption so it’s nice. It also gives me a little bit of cash.
“I’m heading back to the States in a couple of weeks to play some mini tours in the meantime until the Australian events start back up again in September, so it definitely does a lot for the confidence and is a good stepping stone.’’
Holman held his nerve all afternoon, having learned from his experience when joint leader at the Victorian PGA Championship earlier this year, but was visibly disappointed not to win.
“I hit the shots I needed to on the back nine and I had almost nine chances to hole birdie putts but couldn’t get one to go in,’’ Holman said.
“I had the lead for pretty much most of the day. I’m disappointed now but I’ll probably look back on it and be happy with how I performed.’’
Holman revealed that he plans to turn professional by the end of the year.
There was heartbreak for Geelong-born and raised pro Steve Jones late in the day.
Tied for the lead at 12-under par, Jones pushed his tee shot on the par four 16th right into a fairway bunker and took three tries to get it out.
A triple bogey saw him sadly drop out of contention to win, but he bounced back to birdie the final hole and finish in a tie for sixth on 10-under par along with Bradley Hughes, former NSW Open and NSW PGA winner Aaron Townsend and Leigh McKechnie.
West Australian Stephen Dartnall and Nevan Basic, from New South Wales, finished tied for fourth at 11-under par.
The round of the day went to Victorian Richard Green, who shot an eight under par 64 to equal the course record set by Michael Choi on Friday. He finished in a tie for 14th.
Giles had high praise for the event and the concept of playing the men’s and women’s Opens simultaneously.
“It’s been a good week out here,’’ Giles said.
“It’s great to see the support this event has gotten this week with the men and women together.
“That’s been fantastic, so that made it a lot of fun out there playing, especially over the weekend with the crowds.’’
By: Bradley Green (Vic Open Freelancer)