Campbell Rawson has won his first ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia event after securing the Victorian PGA Championship in a titanic finish.
Rawson edged out European Tour veteran and Olympian Marcus Fraser by a single stroke, following a six-under 64 performance to finish 10-under par for a total of 270 for the tournament.
The New Zealander withstood a fast-finishing Fraser, who was twice the joint leader, before Rawson broke clear to secure the Jack Harris trophy, named after the golf legend who won six Victorian PGA Championships.
The 31-year-old hopes today’s breakthrough can take his career to new heights.
“I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to celebrate a little bit.
"Now I’m really focused on some of the bigger events I’ll get exemption to and hopefully can put up some good performances there,” Rawson said.
Rawson, who’s been a professional golfer for five years, narrowly avoided the cut following rounds of 70 and 71.
He finished Friday one-over the card and scraped through to the weekend’s action.
Rawson has never finished in the top 10 at a Tour of Australasia event.
He vaulted to contention following an eagle on the 2nd hole. He calmly slotted consecutive birdies on 8 and 9 to hold a handy three-shot lead by the turn.
Rawson said a key focus to his maiden victory was to combat his biggest competitor – his mind.
“I’m an over-thinker, so all day I’ve told myself not to try not to think. I just focused on playing and letting it happen,” he said.
“I knew I was hitting it well. I’ve been hitting it well for a couple of weeks now and I knew the putts were rolling on a really good line. It was just a matter of getting out of my own way not over-complicate it.
“I probably haven’t had a more nervous two-footer than I’ve had on the last, especially after missing one earlier in the day. I’m overwhelmed to win.”
The Auckland-born player’s rise to secure one of the country’s most prestigious tournaments is a remarkable one.
Rawson was lured to Adelaide in hope of securing an AFL career.
Rawson played Aussie Rules in New Zealand and was identified as showing potential.
He toiled in the reserves for South Adelaide in the South Australian National Football League before self-identifying that he lacked the attributes to make it to the elite level.
Rawson was set to make his senior debut for the Panthers but injured his ankle playing indoor netball.
“I knew pretty early on I wasn’t up to it. Guys that grow up playing the game have a greater awareness of how the game is played,” he said.
“I was getting tackled by guys who I didn’t know were there. I didn’t have that acute spatial awareness.”
At 23, Rawson abandoned his AFL ambitions and focused on his career in the finance sector. But niggling away was an aspiration to delve deeper into his passion for golf.
“To be frank, I got sick of sitting behind the desk and felt I need to have a crack at golf. At the time I wasn’t world class, but knew I had a lot of ability,” he said.
“I had the competitive advantage with the length I was able to hit it. Thankfully the guys at work supported me and gave me the opportunity to break out and shift my attention on golf.”
Fraser’s dashing resurgence has dampened the elation of securing second place, ahead of Michael Sim, who finished six under.
He shared the lead as late as the 15th hole before Rawson mustered the resolve to break through.
“It’s not often you’re disappointed after shooting 64 in the last round bogey-free. I desperately wanted to have my name on that trophy,” Fraser said.
“After scaling back my overseas playing schedule, I want to come home and play well. I feel like I played well this week, but felt my earlier rounds let me down.
“I was on the back foot going into the weekend, but really happy with yesterday’s round and to have played well today and give myself a chance.
“If you probably have given me second at the start of the week I would’ve almost taken it. I desperately wanted my name on that trophy and have to wait another 12 months to get that chance again.”
Australia’s next crop of professionals is evidently strong following the performances of two of its most promising stars.
David Micheluzzi, who was in the final group today, and debutant Blake Collyer proved that have the metal to compete with the country’s best.
Mark Brown rounded out the top five, tying with Andrew Dodt at four under.