Price edges out amateur to claim New Zealand Open

BY | Australasian PGA Tour | 2004 New Zealand Open | Wrap | 18 Jan 2004
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Queenslander Terry Price scored his fifth significant tour victory in his 25-year professional career when he claimed the Holden New Zealand Open golf championship in Auckland.

Price, 43, took the NZD$700,000 Open and the winner’s cheque of NZD$126,000 when he safely made a regulation par on the last hole at The Grange to beat New Zealand amateur Brad Heaven by a shot.

Price finished nine-under on 271 and Heaven, the halfway leader, was eight-under on 272. Heaven, 23, had a 7m birdie putt on the last to take the championship into a play off, but while he read the break correctly he left it a few rolls short.

Heaven won the Bledisloe Cup as leading amateur. It was the second time for the tall Aucklander who had claimed it for the first time as a 16-year-old at Paraparaumu in 1996.

Third on six under were 2001 New Zealand Open champion David Smail (Hamilton) who closed with 66 for a six-under total of 274 which was matched by seasoned Queenslander Peter Senior, whose 65 was the second best round of the day.

Price, who went into the last round a shot to the good of home-town favourite Heaven and Queenslander Chris Downes, knew the Auckland crowd were behind their player, expecially as Heaven had the chance to become the first Kiwi amateur to win the New Zealand since Bob Charles in 1954. Sir Bob played his last Open this week but missed the cut.

“I knew what was going on. It would have been a great event for Brad to win. As much as I wanted to win, a part of me was saying how great it would for New Zealand golf, if he won.”

“But you play this game as a competitor and I’ve been out there in the heat as well hitting balls. Your putting in the yards as well. I would not have been disappointed had he birdied the last hole and won the tournament.”

“What a great story it would have been had he done it 50 years after Bob Charles and I was certainly aware of that.”

The winning of the Open came early into the back nine when Price when for broke and won the bet, being only the second of 69 players to par the tough 13th hole. Then Heaven three-putted 14 and 15, and the damage was done.

“I can’t help but feel a little disappointed,” Heaven said. He leaves tomorrow to resume his golf scholarship at the University of Toledo in Ohio."

“I was happy with the way I played but the dice did not roll my way down the stretch. That three-putt at 14 really killed me. I had visions of winning two trophies today, but I came here to win the Bledisloe Cup and I did that. I’ll take away from here great memories that I’ll never forget.”

Senior, the little Queenslander with the broomstick putter, was 27th equal overnight, but his five-under 65 was bettered on the day only by New South Wales professional Leigh McKechnie, an early starter who had seven birdies and a bogey in his 64.

Smail, who plys his trade mainly in Japan, started equal 19th and his 66, four birdies, two bogeys, elevated him to third. He will rue a quadruple bogey at the par-4 10th hole in Saturday’s third round.

“When I birdied the 12th to go seven -under I thought if I could par 13 (the hardest hole on the course playing at nearly a shot over the par 4) and pick up one or two more birdies and get to eight under I might have a chance,” Senior said.

“The course was not playing easy and the greens were so quick. The wind sometimes lulled and it was hard to pick the direction and that makes the club selection pretty difficult. That back nine is no snack.”

Senior, however, bogeyed the 13th and while he went close with several birdie putts on the last five holes, none dropped.

Smail said he was “really happy” to finish as well as he did considering he was recovering from cracked ribs and had had little practice.

“I gave myself no chance of winning teeing off. I thought somebody might get to nine or 10 under. Later I thought if I got to seven under I might have a chance but I’m happy to finish at six-under.”

Source – New Zealand Open
Photo – FOTOPRESS/Phil Walter

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