Coles anxious to return to USPGA Tour after NZ PGA win

BY Bruce Young | Tour | 2004 New Zealand PGA Championship | Wrap | 29 Feb 2004
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Gavin Coles win in yesterday’s New Zealand PGA Championship at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch highlighted just what a difference there is in Gavin Coles’ game to that of two years ago. There is also a significant difference in his attitude to a life in the US after tasting the life of a PGA Tour player in 2003.

In March of 2002 when Coles arrived at Clearwater for the inaugural Holden Clearwater Classic, he had come off a win at the Jacob’s Creek Open but was undecided as to whether he wanted to take advantage of the new found status on the Buy.Com Tour and head to the US. He had, after all, family commitments in Australia and as a 33-year-old he needed to think through whether this was the right option for him. As someone who had worked so hard to get his game to the point where he could win an event such as that in Adelaide however, the choice became simple as he thought it through and off he went to the US, eventually securing his card for the USPGA Tour in 2003. He struggled, but a taste of the pampered life on the USPGA Tour left him with a desire to return to that tour one day.

Yesterday, after an incredibly tough week of weather in Christchurch, Coles emerged the winner of the New Zealand PGA Championship and once again finds himself on track to regain his USPGA Tour card in 2005, this win providing a great launching pad for such a quest.

Coles’ ball striking, which has been good for a while, was at its best this week in the tough conditions that presented themselves. It was one of those weeks where damage control was the order of the day, more especially on Saturday where strong winds and rain provided the field with some of the worst playing conditions most had experienced. The scores that day told the story. Only one player, Peter Senior, would break par with a highly improbable round of 69. No other player would get within three shots of Senior that day and such was the magnitude of his round that he had moved from 38th position to take a share of the lead.

Heading into round four therefore, Senior and 28-year-old Nationwide Tour rookie Bill Lunde, were tied in the lead at four under and although conditions had improved significantly from Saturday, they were still cold and hardly conducive to good scoring.

Coles started the last day two shots out of the lead and a birdie at the par three 4th hardly signalled what was in store. He bogeyed the par four 6th then would birdie the 7th before two pars saw him turn at one under for the day and some three shots from both Bradley Hughes playing ahead and Bill Lunde who would reach the turn soon after, both at 6 under.

Hughes first mistake came at the par three 11th where a bogey saw him slip from the lead. He would then add further bogeys at the 15th and 17th to see his chances fall as Coles got on the roll that would see him home in 32 and set a score that would prove a difficult target for those behind to catch. His great up and down for par at the 17th, where he had been distracted while over his second shot by a spectator and his third by a noise from the television tower, was followed by a huge putt at the last for birdie.

His only threat at that point would be Lunde, but four bogeys in the last six holes from the American were never going to get the job done and he had to settle for second alongside Brad Hughes and Brendan Jones.

For Jones this would be his second runner up placing in succession having finished five shots behind Euan Walters last week at the Jacob’s Creek Open in Adelaide. He may now also consider the possibility of playing the Nationwide Tour. He will have that option if he so chooses as he already has earnt more in 2004 than the 55th player on the Nationwide Tour in 2003. His win in Japan last year gives him security on that tour for two years so should he decide to give the US a go then he has nothing to lose, other than perhaps the chance to earn at the more lucrative Japan Tour events. It will be interesting to see just what decision he makes.

Last week’s winner Euan Walters tied for 5th with Peter Senior and ex-USPGA Tour player Franklin Langham.

The New Zealand PGA Championship completes the first three events of the Nationwide Tour, which now has three weeks off before the Chitimaca Louisiana Open in late March. Euan Walters currently heads the 2004 Nationwide money list with $US178,000, some $US34,000 ahead of Coles. Both players have an almost walk up start to the 2005 PGA Tour. Last year 20th place (the last of the cards) earned US$179,000 so for Walters at least he would need only to make another cut or two to claim a 2005 USPGA Tour card. Coles will likely need another $US50,000 but he should be able to earn that with nearly a full season to be played.

The event also brings to a close the first half of the 2004 Australasian Tour of which Walters heads that money list also with AUD$278,000 and some $58,000 ahead of Adam Scott.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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