Michael Hendry has become the first Kiwi to claim the ISPS Handa NZ Open in 14 years after a dramatic three-way playoff for the title.
Fellow New Zealander Ben Campbell (72) and 2011 champion Brad Kennedy (71), from Queensland, both birdied the par-5 17th hole in regulation play to finish tied with Hendry on 19 under 266.
The trio ventured back to the tee of the par-3 18th at the Millbrook Resort for the sudden death play-off. Hendry hit his tee shot to 15 feet of the flag, which all but sealed the title as both Kennedy and Campbell put their tee shots into the water surrounding the semi-island green.
While the previous three rounds were played in idyllic conditions at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, the final round was cool and windy with morning rain that made for a challenging day.
Hendry produced a remarkable effort, hitting 17 greens in regulation on the way to an outstanding two under 69.
He edged into the lead on the 10th hole and was never headed, although required the playoff to become the 98th winner of the Brodie Breeze Trophy and the first New Zealander since Mahal Pearce in 2003.
“This is the one I wanted the most of any trophy and I’ve got it now,” Hendry said.
“I think for most of the Kiwis in the field – if it’s not one of the four (Majors), it’s this one. To have the New Zealand Open trophy and have my name on the NZ PGA trophy as well, it’s pretty sweet.
“Once it had been decided that there was going to be a playoff I felt pretty comfortable. 72 holes are over and I was thinking to myself, just a few more shots.
“I was dead-keen to win the trophy hands down and obviously the New Zealand golfing public and golf fans around New Zealand are going to be pretty chuffed that a Kiwi has finally won it and I’m going to be chuffed that that Kiwi happened to be me.”
Hendry said his back-to-back eagles at the end of his round on Saturday were the key to his victory.
“That was the winning of the tournament this week,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to execute the game plan that I wanted today. Right then and there was when I won the golf tournament.”
Campbell, beaten in a playoff at the NZ PGA Championship last week, was again in a share of second here, but it was rich reward for a young man who has fought back from debilitating injuries that has thwarted a promising career.
“It’s been amazing how much support I’ve had this week from back home. I’ve had that many messages I haven’t been able to reply to all of them yet,” Campbell said.
“It was great having all that support out there this week and the crowds cheering me on definitely helped.
“My game’s been getting better and better. It’s been great working down here (Queenstown) with John Griffin and all the support I have down here with sponsors and that sort of thing as well.”
VIDEO: FINAL ROUND HIGHLIGHTS
Kennedy was super-steady throughout the day, recovering from a double bogey on the first hole to shoot an even par 71.
Victorian Deyen Lawson (68) finished a shot out of the play-off on 18 under. Fellow Victorian Jack Wilson was a further shot back at 17 under and outright fifth place.
New Zealander Ryan Chisnall, the only amateur to make the cut, collected the Bledisloe Cup as the tournament’s leading amateur, finishing at three under the card in a share of 58th place.
For his win Hendry claimed AU$163,666 in prizemoney and is now second on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit behind World Super 6 Perth champion Brett Rumford.
The PGA Tour of Australasia now heads to City Golf Club, Toowoomba, for the Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship to be played from March 16 to 19.