Nick Cullen too good at Queensland Open
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2013 Isuzu Queensland Open | Wrap | 25 Aug 2013
29 year old South Australian, Nick Cullen today won his first PGA Tour of Australasia title with a five shot victory over Peter O’Malley in the Isuzu Queensland Open at the Brookwater Golf and Country Club in Ipswich west of Brisbane.
Cullen, whose brilliant third round of 65 yesterday swept him to a one shot lead over O’Malley through 54 holes, got just the start he was after today when he birdied the 1st and 3rd holes and although O’Malley would also birdie the 3rd, the gap increased to two.
O’Malley made a blunder when he bogeyed the par five 8th from 80 metres or so but when he produced a brilliant birdie from the fairway bunker at the 9th he headed for the 10th tee only one behind Cullen and the title was still very much up for grabs.
The pair had separated themselves from the rest and so the growing crowd, who had the luxury of walking on the fairways allowing for an up close and personal view of golf at this level, settled down to what appeared might be a battle to the finish.
Cullen hit a great approach to the very much uphill 10th and made his birdie putt to go two ahead but a major turning point was to come at the seemingly benign par four 12th. O’Malley missed the green left with his approach and was faced with a difficult bunker shot if he was to save par. He couldn’t and when Cullen converted a seven foot birdie opportunity the margin was three.
Cullen did bogey the par three 16th but by then it was all but over and he would add insult to injury when he holed a twelve footer for birdie at the last for the emphatic victory.
He recognised after his round the importance of the fast start he made to his final round. “I got off to a great start,” said Cullen. “I holed a little putt up the hill at the first and then knocked it pretty close on the third so two under through three – around here you need to take everything you get.”
Cullen has developed into one of Australia’s genuinely emerging players over the past two years of his five year professional career to date.
“I wasn’t much of an amateur player I guess – not bad but definitely not the calibre of these guys coming out now. The first couple of years were a bit hard and I realised I had to work a bit harder and last year I had my first win then I guess you are always wondering when the next one is coming.”
Despite being a five year veteran in professional golf, Cullen has been the beneficiary of the Golf Australia rookie programme over the past two years. That programme assists professionals in the early stages of their careers and it has proven a great help to Cullen who had been struggling in the opening two years in professional golf.
“Being able to have on board a coach, and experts in biomechanics, physiotherapy, sports psychology etc has been a great help.
“A lot of their (Golf Australia’s) support has allowed me to get a good team around me all working towards the same goals.”
He is planning on tackling the Japan Tour School at the end of the year. “I really want to play up there next year,” he added. “I played three events up there last year and loved the country and the people. It is just a great place to play. Then it is hopefully Europe or the US after that. I just want to play bigger tournaments and against the best players.”
O’Malley kept the tournament a contest for so long before Cullen edged clear over the closing few holes. The 48 year old once again displayed his quality game despite now being essentially a part-timer but he showed us all why he has been one of Australia’s better players over the last twenty years or so.
David McKenzie came from a long way off the pace with an equal best final round of 68 to finish alone in third position while the leading world ranked player in the field, Jake Higginbottom, finished 4th.
The leading amateur was the 15 year old Victorian Ryan Ruffels who, under the watchful eye of his Dad Ray Ruffles, a former Davis Cup player, finished in a share of 19th position, one shot ahead of NSW teenager, Cameron Davis.
The Queensland Open returned to the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule with an element of doubt how it would be received but with a high quality layout, a week of some of the nicest Queensland August weather you could imagine and a very well organised event it came through the week with flying colours.
With Isuzu committed to another two years of sponsorship and the foundation established for the event to go from strength to strength, the Queensland Open, after a six years break, is well and truly back.