Daniel Pearce blows eight-shot lead, but wins Queensland PGA in playoff
Kiwi Daniel Pearce wasn't even supposed to be at the Queensland PGA Championship, but rallied back from blowing an eight-shot lead to claim his first Australasian PGA Tour win in a playoff.
The Ashburton professional's wife gave birth to their first child four weeks ago and the initial plan was to stay home with them. A strong 11th-placed showing at the New Zealand Open last weekend led to a late change of heart, which paid off to the tune of A$18,750 (NZ$20,500) and an exemption to play on the tour next year.
"I wasn't even planning to come play this event, I was going stay home with them, but I'm glad I didn't," he said after the win.
"Getting the exemption is fantastic, I've struggled to keep my Aussie tour card the last four and a half years, mainly because I haven't played enough events, so to have the exemption for next year takes a weight off my shoulders."
Pearce went into the final round with an eight-shot lead over his nearest contender on the sixth stop of the tour.
The 28-year-old carded an eight-under 62 as he kicked away from the pack at the City Golf Club in Toowoomba on Saturday, but things looked as though they might come unstuck on Sunday as he shot four-straight bogeys from holes 5-8 to fall back to the field.
"To be honest, I was actually quite excited going into the back nine. I probably shouldn't have been after the front nine, but I saw it as a great challenge and felt I could play well on the back nine."
And play well he did, carding an eagle on the par-five 10th hole to give himself a three-shot buffer to Australians Adam Burdett and Matthew Millar, with fellow Kiwi Mark Brown one shot back in fourth.
A clutch 12-foot putt on 15 for par helped him eventually shoot a two-over 72, with 40-year-old Millar the one to apply the pressure in the final group on the course with Pearce, carding a six-under round of 64.
The pair went into the par-four 18th hole tied on 20-under, but both players did their best to lose it by hitting the greenside bunkers. They each took three shots to get up and down to send the tournament to a playoff.
The first two playoff holes went to par, with Pearce pulling off a great shot from the deep rough under some trees on the first of those to help save his par.
Pearce had played the tournament without a caddy, carrying his own clubs on his back for the majority of the tournament (someone did carry them for the back nine of his third round).
On the third playoff hole, Pearce's 75th of the week, his fellow Kiwi Luke Toomey joined him on the fairway and carried his bag for him, proving a lucky charm as the Millar's nerve broke.
The Australian sent his tee shot into the fairway bunker, before hitting a hybrid out of the sand which only just avoided the water in front of the green. His rescue shot ran through the green, leaving Pearce in the box seat having hit his second shot onto the green.
He two-putted and Millar was unable to chip in, giving Pearce his first win on the tour.
Lower Hutt's Brown finished in a tie for fourth on 15-under after three-straight bogeys on the back nine ended his challenge, while Burdett was third on 16-under.
Other Kiwis who made the cut included Toomey, Fraser Wilkin and Gareth Paddison.