New Plymouth professional Grant Moorhead has finally broken through on the Charles Tour and the tears that followed were testament to how much it meant to him.
The 42-year-old veteran, who has played in all but two Charles Tour events since they began in 2004, carded a three-under-par 69 in the final round of the LawnMaster Classic at the Manawatu Golf Club to hold off the charge of Waikato teenager Luke Toomey (72).
Moorhead led by one shot heading down the par-four 18th and he two-putted from 10m to put the pressure on Hamilton amateur Toomey, who had a birdie try from 3m to force a playoff.
It went sliding by on the high side and the emotion hit Moorhead, who has been a perennial contender in the four-round format where the field of professionals contest a $40,000 purse.
"I am just feeling a huge sense of relief," said an emotional Moorhead, who claimed the $7200 in prizemoney.
"Today's final round is just such a blur. I can't remember the middle part of the round at all. But I hung in there and played really nicely. It starts to play on your mind a bit, finishing second or third so many times, so to get up and win here is a huge thrill. It means a lot to me to win on the Charles Tour. It has been a long time coming."
Moorhead's experience got him home. He made three birdies throughout his final round and no bogeys in an impressive display.
His final birdie came at the par-3 11th when he sunk a 20m putt across the two-tiered green to gain a two-shot lead.
"That putt was probably travelling four or five feet faster than it needed to be, but yeah, it was great to see it drop and that was a big moment."
It is Moorhead's first win since he claimed the Tahiti Open in 2011 which was reduced to 54 holes due to wet weather. He has finished runner-up twice on the Charles Tour - including a playoff loss to Josh Geary in the 2008 Carrus Open - and third at the Muriwai Open in 2011 (where he shared the pro's cheque with Josh Munn the winner).
But to get over the line early in 2013 after some struggles with his swing for most of last year was a great feeling.
Moorhead paid special tribute to Toomey, who backed up his course record 63 in round three with an even-par 72 to finish one back and the leading amateur.
"Luke played great today and he has a big future. Every time I got ahead he kept coming back at me. His birdie putt that he made on the 15th was just outrageous and right to the end he didn't give up. This win is even more special because he really made me earn it."
New Plymouth's Steven Heyes finished on 287 after rounds of 68, 77, 70 and 72, one clear of Brad Hayward and another two back to Sanjay Modgill.
North Harbour golfer Lita Guo secured her first national title after carding a one-under-par 73 in the final round.
The New Zealand representative won by six shots from Wellington No 1 Julianne Alvarez, who came home strong with a six-under-par 68 to claim second.
Chantelle Cassidy (Putaruru) had a two-under-par 72 in the final round to finish on a two-under total in third on her comeback to the Charles Tour.
Manaia's Holly Winter finished fifth in the women's competition on 298 after rounds of 78, 75, 74 and 71, while clubmate Celeste McLean finish on 306.
Guo, who recently claimed a bronze medal at the Australian Youth Olympics Festival as part of the NZ mixed team, was delighted to win for the first time on the Charles Tour.
"I have had a few runner-up finishes and top fives but to win is a great feeling," said the 17-year-old.
Guo put on a Lydia Ko-type performance - she had rounds of 70, 68, 71 and 73 to finish on a 14-under-par total.
"It is very nice to be compared to Lydia," she said, laughing. "I played really well this week and feel confident around this course."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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