[PHOTO: Taylah Somerville]
The attitude that earned Daniel Gale a PGA Tour start just four weeks ago has delivered a drought-breaking victory at the 2023 Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship.
The tournament leader at Palmerston Golf & Country Club at the completion of the first and second rounds, Gale had to start the final round two strokes behind Victorian Andrew Kelly.
That deficit would have been four if not for two late birdies in his third round of one-over 72 on Saturday and he was back on level terms after making birdie at both his opening two holes on Sunday.
It was pedal-to-the-metal from start to finish, the New South Welshman leading by three after playing the front nine in four-under 32.
Queenslander Chris Crabtree loosened Gale’s stranglehold briefly when he made five birdies in the space of six holes around the turn, but Gale would once again extend his advantage late, making birdies at the 16th and 17th before a meaningless three-putt bogey on 18 for a round of six-under 65 and a four-stroke win.
It had been 1,939 days since Gale won the 2018 SP PNG Open in his rookie season on the PGA Tour of Australasia, and the 27-year-old admitted that a second win had been a long time coming.
“It feels every bit of that,” Gale said of his more than five-year wait for a second title.
“Obviously [I] just spent three-and-a-bit months in America, worked my butt off, trained hard and I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences. I was able to apply it this week.
“I am over the moon. It hasn’t really fully sunk in yet but I’m just happy that I conquered all of my daily goals for today to get the job done. It’s good to see the hard work pay off.”
Gale made himself known to American golf fans when he shot a course-record 60 to lead Monday qualifying for the 3M Open last month, holing out for eagle on his final hole.
After his struggles on Saturday, Gale was determined to bring an attacking mindset to Sunday’s final round in Darwin.
“Obviously I’ve just come off the back of Monday qualifiers and all that and obviously was successful at 3M,” Gale said prior to collecting golf’s most unique trophy.
“I said that I’ve got to go out there and just take my chances and just [put the] pedal to the metal. No holding back and just try to birdie every hole essentially.
“Thankfully I had everything working well and I took advantage of the majority of all my chances that I had so the walk up the last was pretty cruisy, to be honest.”
That cruisy finish was set up in part by birdies at the first two holes of the day.
Gale hit a 4-iron off the first tee and then lob wedge to 10 feet, rolling in the uphill, right-to-left 10-footer dead centre to start in perfect fashion.
He had sand wedge from 105 metres at the par-5 second but clipped a tree from a bare lie to present a difficult third to even give himself a look at birdie.
“It was in a very, very tricky spot and I hit this bump-and-run from in the trees to about five feet and rolled that in for birdie,” Gale said. “That was good to get that one out of the gates.
“I checked the leaderboard after about six or seven and saw that I was two in front. I just kept the pedal to the metal.”
Gale’s Sunday 65 matched his score from the first round and were the two best rounds of the tournament behind Chris Wood’s seven-under 64 on day two.
A former Queensland amateur teammate of Louis Dobbelaar and Lawry Flynn, Crabtree finished alone in second at 10-under with a final round of two-under 69.
There was a four-way tie for third between Tim Hart (69), Matias Sanchez (71), Ben Ferguson (71) and 54-hole leader Kelly (72).