A birdie in regulation and par at the second playoff hole at the devilish par-3 18th has secured Queenslander Aaron Wilkin a breakthrough victory at the Queensland PGA Championship in Brisbane.
Staying with Wilkin in Brisbane this week, Justin Warren was the first in the clubhouse at four-under following a brilliant Sunday 67 at Nudgee Golf Club’s Kurrai course.
Jak Carter (74) arrived at the 72nd hole with a one-shot buffer but his 7-iron failed to cover the water, making double-bogey and missing out on the playoff when he was unable to get up and down from the drop zone.
Playing in the fifth-to-last group, Wilkin rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt from the right fringe on 18 to tie Warren with a closing round of four-under 68 and then watched on as Carter fell to three-under.
Warren had a chance to seal victory with a par putt from four feet at the first playoff hole, his attempt staying on the right side of the hole to extend the tournament to a 74th hole.
Playing first, Wilkin found the front-left portion of the green to apply the pressure. Warren’s tee shot missed to the right of the greenside trap to leave a delicate chip to the wildly undulating green.
The only player in the field not to post an over-par round all week, Wilkin’s birdie try from 30 feet came up just inches short of the hole. When Warren missed his par putt from 20 feet, the proud Queenslander saluted in front of family and friends for what he hopes is a portent of even bigger things to come.
“It’s just the monkey off the back,” said Wilkin, whose previous best finish on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia was a tie for third at the TPS Murray River at Cobram-Barooga in February.
“I’m definitely good enough, I just needed to do something like this, maybe. It lets me know that I can do it.
“I didn’t know four (under) was going to be enough but I thought if I got myself to four I’d be a chance. I’ve been in that position before, coming down the last with the lead and I’ve screwed it up so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for Jak.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been knocking at the door but I’ve just been wanting to win for a while. It’s good to do it in front of my family and friends.”
The result was one of mixed emotions for Warren, who Wilkin reached out to when the Sydneysider’s previous accommodation fell through at the start of the week.
It is indicative of the popularity for which Wilkin is held among fellow players and helped to soften Warren’s playoff defeat.
“One of us had to win, one of us had to lose. Either way it was going to be a good result for us so happy to see him win,” said Warren.
“This week was pretty tough conditions, tough course, tough set-up, just pretty brutal but I was really proud of the way I fought back yesterday. I had a good back nine and played phenomenal today. I could sit here in hindsight and pick out the ones I left out there and obviously had a putt on the first playoff hole to get it done but the 18th hole with that wind is tricky.
“All I can do is focus on the positives. I shot one of the lowest scores on the course today, I clutched up and stepped up in some tough conditions and was able to put myself in contention and had a shot there in the playoff.”
Playing in just his fourth professional tournament, Carter was outright third at three-under, Daniel Gale (71) and Lachlan Barker tied for fourth at two-under par.
There were also rewards for those further down the leaderboard.
Lincoln Tighe (T12), Denzel Ieremia (T12) and Lucas Higgins (T28) secured exemptions into next week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland as the top three on the Order of Merit not already exempt.