New South Welshman Dimi Papadatos has held his nerve in testing Sunday conditions around 13th Beach Golf Links at Barwon Heads to claim the 2017 Oates Vic Open.
A one-under par 71 final round was enough for Papadatos to clinch his first Oates Vic Open title and the $90,000 winner’s cheque.
The 25-year-old finished at 16-under par, two shots clear of South Australian Adam Bland and joint third round leader Queensland’s Jake McLeod.
A shot further back at 13-under was 2015 winner and 13th Beach resident Richard Green and Victorian veteran David McKenzie.
It was Papadatos’ first win since the 2014 New Zealand Open and he said he was thrilled to come out on top at the end of an enthralling day.
Played under overcast conditions, the winds picked up which made scoring difficult and Papadatos said he knew it was going to be a day where he had to concentrate on every shot.
“There were times when I was allowing four (extra) club winds and I was still coming up one-and-a- half clubs short,” Papadatos said.
“It was very strong, heavy wind and it was playing a lot tougher (than the first three days).
“We’ve played in recent years and you know straight away when there’s no wind you can tear it up – but it shows its teeth when it blows like this.
“I’m very happy with how the week panned out. I was coming into a little bit of form I thought. It came a bit earlier than expected but I’m very happy with it.”
Papadatos made just two birdies for the whole round, including one of the par-five fifth hole, and bogeyed the short par-three seventh.
Papadatos went head-to-head with playing partner, Bendigo’s Lucas Herbert, for the lead for most of the back nine after overnight leaders McLeod (75) and Matthew Giles (78) both stumbled.
Herbert led at 16-under after 13 holes but dropped five shots in his last five holes to finish tied for sixth at 12-under.
Papadatos had to wait to see if McLeod eagled the final hole to force a play-off. But McLeod could only manage a par.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking but I wasn’t too worried about it. I did my job and if Jake made an eagle up the last that would have been fantastic and we go to a play-off,” Papadatos said.
“I knew it was going to be a really, long tough day so I just played pretty solid golf. I didn’t take too many risks because I was right up there so I didn’t need to chance my arm too much.
“I just stayed patient all day and it turned out pretty good.
“I realised after we walked off 14 the guys in the last group had dropped off a little bit so I knew it was probably going to be between him (Herbert) and I coming down the stretch.”
A disappointed Herbert was left to rue some costly errors in his final five holes, including hitting his second shot on the final hole into a hazard when going for broke in an attempt to tie Papadatos.
“Those last five holes a few breaks didn’t go my way,” Herbert mused. “I hit a couple of bad shots in there to be fair and that’s cost me a fair bit unfortunately.
“But that’s golf. You’re going to have a few go your way and few not go your way. But Dimi played so well. He kept pressure on me even when I was playing well before those last five holes.
“I know that finish is going to be a bit bitter but I’m going to try and take the positives from it.”
Papadatos hopes to build on the momentum from this win and look to reclaim playing rights on the European Tour.
“Last year I learnt a lot and realised I had a lot of work to do and, as hard as it was and how much I hated it over there and had a miserable time, I think its paid off for me to know what to expect when I go back over there next time,” he said.
“I’m playing better than what I was. If I took this game over there I’d be right up there.
“But I’ve got a long way to go still. The guys over there are very good and my good weeks like this I’d be right up there. But week in, week out, I’ve got to a bit of work to do I think.”
West Australian Min Woo Lee was the leading amateur and finished in the group tied for sixth at 12-under par after carding the low round of the day, a four-under 68.
Defending champion Michael Long made a good fist of his title defence, shooting a final round three-under par 69 to finish at 11-under and tied 12th.