Young Aussie stars lining up for NZPGA Championship

BY | Tour | 2005 New Zealand PGA Championship | General | 08 Feb 2005

Four rising stars in a new galaxy of young emerging Australian golf professionals, including Jarrod Lyle, have been confirmed for the $US600,000 ING New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater, Christchurch, from February 24-27.

Victorian Lyle, who tied for third in the Heineken at the weekend, Queenslander Steven Bowditch and New South Welshmen James Nitties and Kurt Barnes, all of whom have had success as amateurs in New Zealand championships, will tee off in the 72-hole tournament at the Clearwater resort course. This quartet of youngsters are looking to follow the steps of 2003 and 2004 winners Ryan Palmer and Gavin Coles who both won at Clearwater on their way to gaining their full US PGA tour cards.

Lyle, aged 23, was tied for the lead going into the last hole of the Heineken Classic, but a bogey five pushed him to third. Diagnosed with leukemia as a 17-year-old, he has overcome more than most in his fledging career. He was runner up in both the New Zealand Amateur Strokeplay and Match Play Championships in 2004.

Bowditch, whose third equal finish in the Australian Open and equal fourth place in the Australian Masters at Huntingdale last December elevated him to 14th on the 2004 Australasian Order of Merit, won the New Zealand Under 19 title at the Hawkes Bay Golf Club in 2000.

The next year he was a semi-finalist in the New Zealand amateur match-play championship at Mount Maunganui.

Nitties, 22, and Barnes, 23, prospered on their visit to Christchurch and Dunedin as amateurs in 2003. They were members of the Australian team which beat Japan, Canada, and New Zealand to win the ninth Four Nations teams’ championship at Shirley.

The powerful hitting Barnes, who was No. 1, won all three singles while Nitties had two wins and a half. They then contested the New Zealand amateur championships at the Chisholm Park links course in Dunedin, with Barnes taking out the 72-hole stroke-play championship and Nitties winning the match-play crown after eliminating Barnes in the quarter-finals.

Nitties, the leading amateur in the 2001 Australian Open, claimed the New Zealand Under 23 title in Hastings last year.

Both have already made their mark in professional golf with Barnes featuring high on the leaderboard in the 2004 New Zealand Open at The Grange after opening rounds of 66 and 69, But scores of 70 and 76 over the last 36 holes saw him drop back to a share of 27th place on one-over 281.

Barnes, who was fifth equal in the 2004 Australian Open, last month won the Victorian 54-hole Open in a play-off with New South Welshman Nathan Green. He birdied the first hole of sudden-death after both had finished the three rounds at 12 under.

Nitties, who finished 17th on the Order of Merit, nearly scored a stunning win in his rookie year. After finishing tied for 41st in the Australian Open, he led going into the final round of the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum. He finished at 16-under par 272 to finish runner-up to Peter Lonard (270).

They will be joined by another 65 players from the PGA Tour of Australasia, 78 professionals from the US PGA Nationwide Tour and 10 sponsor invitees in a high-quality field of 156 for the championship.

Source – NZPGA Championship

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