Twenty-four hours after his place in the tournament was in jeopardy, New Zealand’s Kerry Mountcastle broke through for his first win on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia at the 2023 Gippsland Super 6 at Warragul Country Club.
It has been a strong debut season so far for the Kiwi, with top-10 finishes at the PNG Open (T-10), and the WA Open (T-4), but this victory takes his professional career to new heights.
As well as securing Mountcastle a spot in both the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and the ISPS Handa Australian Open in the coming weeks, he has now taken over No.1 spot in this season’s Order of Merit standings.
But there was a chance on Saturday that he would not even make it through to the final day with the former New Zealand amateur representative having to survive a 10-man playoff to reach the last 24 who contested the elimination medal-matchplay rounds.
He finished the 54 holes of strokeplay in a tie for 17th at six-under-par, and then had to get through five opponents on Sunday (playing a total of 30 holes) on his way to the trophy.
Jye Pickin, Lawry Flynn, Michael Wright, and Jak Carter were Mountcastle’s final-day victims before he faced the formidable Jake McLeod in the final.
“I only just snuck in today through the playoff yesterday, so I kind of came into today just trying to finish as high as I could for the Order of Merit… and all of a sudden I was in the final,” he laughed.
“I was probably more nervous in that [Saturday] playoff than I was at any point today.
“To get into those [tournaments – the Australian PGA and Open] is massive, because obviously they’re worth the most money and points. It means a lot. I can now plan what I want to do.”
Mountcastle is coached by Dom Azzopardi, coach of Lucas Herbert and Mountcastle’s partner Momoka Kobori, and said the work they’ve put in has changed his game dramatically.
“The major changes happened end of last year, beginning of this year and then I was able to work on them through winter,” he said. “It’s made my game a lot more consistent what I’ve done with Dom. I don’t have the massive miss off the tee that I used to have and putting and chipping has got a lot better.”
Mountcastle will be heading to Moonah Links for the Victorian PGA Championship next week, but is happy he doesn’t have to worry about qualifying for the week after.
Runner-up McLeod played near-flawless golf until the final, and took down the No.1 seed Jarryd Felton in the quarter-finals.
The McLeod versus Felton match was the pick of the day, with both players finishing three-under after the six-hole match. Two knockout holes were required, with McLeod eventually making birdie on the second.
A previous PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner on the back of his 2018 NSW Open win, McLeod’s finish this week marks a strong return to form, and the pointy end of the leaderboard.
WA amateur Joseph Owen, who made an ace on the 15th hole in round one, made it all the way to the semi-finals before being knocked out by McLeod.
The Lake Karrinyup member, a previous Victorian Amateur champion, battled Carter in the match for third but the South Australian was too strong.
Carter’s third-place result marks his best finish this season, and adds to top 10s at the WA Open, and WA PGA Championship to move him to ninth on the Order of Merit. The South Australian had a local Warragul member on his bag this weekend, and praised him for his green-reading skills.
Other strong finishes came from Victorian Darcy Brereton, and South Australia’s Jack Buchanan, who both made it to the quarter finals. In just his second event as a professional, Buchanan shot an incredible 63 in round three to start in a strong position on Sunday. He was able to triumph over Andrew Martin in his first match, after sitting out round one, but was eventually knocked out by the amateur Owen.
For Brereton. this week marks his best finish as a professional and backs up a tied-12th finish at last week’s Queensland PGA.
Having finished outside the top-eight from the first three rounds, Brereton was victorious over James Grierson, and the No.2 seed Cameron John on his way to the semi-finals. A long Carter putt from off the green on the knockout hole led to Brereton’s eventual elimination.