Alker claims significant NZPGA win
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 NZ PGA Championship | Round Four | 08 Mar 2009
37-year-old Steve Alker became the first New Zealander to win the New Zealand PGA Championship since the event was resurrected in 2004 and the first to win any event at Clearwater when he produced a final round of 67 to edge out fellow New Zealanders David Smail and Josh Geary by two shots.
Alker declared after his win that he would head to the US once again to play there with the exemption to the Nationwide Tour he now enjoys.
“It is still up in the air a little but my wife and I have already discussed it and we would probably move back there at the end of the year and commute in the meantime. My wife Tania is keen to get back to the US and we have a house in Scottsdale in Arizona. I’m glad we didn’t sell it.”
“It’s pretty special,” said Alker after his round referring to his win. “It is a funny old game. I missed the cut last week and to come here and play well in New Zealand and take out a title is a little special.”
Alker earned US$108,000 for his win.
This week Alker was determined to show more patience with his swing than had been displaying in and made a technical change when altering his posture.
“I took some video shots at Moonah last week and realised I had become too crouched over the ball. I tidied up a lot of fundamental stuff also.”
Alker was the Touring Professional at Clearwater in the course’s early years and that certainly helped in the variety of winds he field experienced this week.
“I relied on that history a little bit especially around the back on holes like 12 – 14 and 16 as they are in the windiest part of the course. I played conservative and missed them in the right place and things worked out pretty well in terms of my game plan and my course management.”
Alker has had his struggles in tournament golf in the past 18 months – in fact this was his first top ten in any event anywhere since finishing at the KLM Open in the Netherlands in mid-2007.
Alker played the USPGA Tour in 2003 after winning the Louisiana Open on the Nationwide Tour in 2002. He struggled at the higher level but he is a tidy golfer whose game is built around out-thinking golf courses rather than overpowering them. Alker’s statistics for the week backed up that claim. He was 1st in both fairways and greens hit.
He headed to Europe to play in 2007 and raise a family after having gained his European card at Tour School but apart from the occasional glimpse of good form, things hardly improved. He lost his full status and played both the European and Challenge Tour events in 2008 but until this week he was resigned to returning to the secondary Challenge Tour.
Smail finished runner up for the second consecutive year, having finished in that same position in the rain reduced event in 2008 behind Darron Stiles. Smail and the winner Alker were club mates at St Andrews Golf Club in Hamilton and it was clear he was genuinely pleased for his friend.
“It’s great to see for Stevie. We were club-mates in Hamilton and this win opens up opportunities for him,” said Smail. “I knew when I saw him well and truly on top of the leaderboard that I was probably playing for second but I am happy for him.”
Geary has won in Canada previously but this is an excellent result for him and arguably his best in professional golf including that win. It opens up possibilities to get to the Nationwide Tour and he knows another good result in Queenstown next week, where he finished as the leading New Zealander in 2007, might be enough for him to be playing on the that Tour in 2009 rather than returning to the Canadian Tour.
This was a significant result in the career of the previous New Zealand Eisenhower representative who has been buoyed by the recent securing of a start at the Open Championship at Turnberry in July. “It really is a huge result for me trying to get on the Nationwide and get to the PGA that way – getting a win or even a top finish in these co-sanctioned events,” said Geary. “The money is good to keep going but the main thing is status.”
“I have been hitting the ball really well and it has been really frustrating these last couple of months missing the first three cuts and I couldn’t really understand what was going wrong. I spoke to my coach and the last two days have worked on caring less if you could and take the pressure off my putting. I had been trying to make it happen rather than let it happen but it has been good the last few days.”
Geary and Smail earn approximately US$52,800 each and while the finish will not impact Smail’s schedule in terms of him playing in Japan it could yet play a role in the future of Geary.
Michael Sim, Ryan Hietala and Norwegian Henrik Bjornstadt tied for 4th with Sim continuing a remarkable run of form. Sim has finished 7th, 3rd and now 4th in his last three starts.
New Zealand’s rising star Danny Lee gave his followers a run for their money when he finished in a share of 7th.
The Australasian and Nationwide Tours now head to Queenstown in Central Otago for the New Zealand Open.