36 year-old Leigh McKechnie has taken out the 2009 NSW Open following a dramatic final day at The Vintage, Hunter Valley. With rounds of 70-72-70-69, McKechnie finished one stroke ahead of James Nitties to record his first victory on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
Coming down the stretch McKechnie was oblivious to the drama that was unfolding around him.
“I had no idea of what was happening. I saw my name on the leaderboard when I was on the 15th but I didn’t see any numbers.”
At this stage overnight leader Jason Norris was struggling in the difficult conditions dropping eight shots through the front nine to throw the tournament wide open.
Norris, the 2007 champion, finished the final round eight over to be even par for the championship and in a tie for fourth position, along with New Zealander Mark Purser.
Beginning the final round seven shots in arrears, McKechnie made a steady start before making birdie on the toughest hole on the course, the par 3, 8th holing his shot from the greenside trap.
With birdies on three of the last six holes, including on the 18th, McKechnie had posted the score to catch up with Nitties still out on the course.
Nitties had his chances after an eagle on the 14th, followed by a birdie on the 15th to draw level with McKechnie. However a bogey on the par 3, 17th effectively meant he had to birdie the 18th to force a play-off.
When his approach into the 18th came up short and his putt missed, McKechnie’s wait had come to the end and he’d become the NSW Open Champion.
Scott Arnold fired the day’s low round with a 5-under, 66 to record another top-5 finish after finishing in a tie for runner-up last week at the Cellarbrations NSW PGA Championship at Wollongong.
Arnold’s 66 will have to go down as one of the rounds of the year and at one stage the 24-year-old took the lead despite being the 5th group out for the day.
1. Leigh McKechnie (281)
2. James Nitties (282)
3. Scott Arnold (283)
T4. Jason Norris (284)
T4. Mark Purser (284)
T6. Rohan Blizard (286)
T6. Andrew Bonhomme (286)
T6. Simon Furneaux (286)
T6. Brad McIntosh (286)
T6. Craig Scott (286)