Vernon Sexton-Finck has claimed the biggest win of his golfing career in a tumultuous final round at the 2019 PGA Professionals Championship at Hamilton Island.
Sexton-Finck posted rounds of 69, 70 and 76 for a two-over tournament total to finish one stroke clear of reigning champion and runner-up Scott Laycock at three-over the card.
With their results, Sexon-Finck and Laycock have earned exemption into next month’s Australian PGA Championship.
The West Australian was elated with the result that has seen him win the Dan Cullen Cup.
“It was crazy. I was pretty nervous this morning. I’ve never really been in this sort of position for what is quite a big event,” Sexton-Finck said.
“I didn’t know what to expect obviously because it’s quite an intimidating golf course as well. I knew that I had to play exceptionally well.
“I didn’t play great today but I hung in there and managed to get it done. I’ve never won anything like this in my life so it means an incredible amount to me.”
Sexton-Finck began his round with three straight pars from holes 1 to 3 but the efforts of his fellow competitors saw the 39-year-old lose his four-stroke overnight lead in the early stages.
Hamilton Island Golf Course’s notorious back-nine was where the action really started, with Sexton-Finck and New South Welshman Jamie Hook sharing a lead of one-over at the turn.
A quad from Hook at the par-4 13th quickly turned the tables and extended Sexton-Finck’s lead, but he was not in the clear yet.
Laycock threatened with a birdie at 16 to get within one stroke and pars followed at 17, but Sexton-Finck says he was unaware of the standings ahead of the final hole.
“I had absolutely no idea. Even when I holed the putt on the last and it was announced that I’d won that was the first time I knew that I’d actually won,” he said.
“I knew I was there or thereabouts but Scott made a great birdie on 16 and I didn’t want to know. I literally played the last four holes in as few shots as I could.”
Laycock needed a birdie or better at the par-4 18th to force a playoff but it wasn’t meant to be following a wayward tee shot that landed on the 10th fairway.
A miraculous blind shot from the 10th landed on the 18th green but Sexton-Finck’s approach was too good, handing the Perth local a one-stroke win.
“Vernon played great. I played with him every day and he played really well the first two but threw away a few holes late in his round both times,” Laycock said.
“I figured if I birdied 18 that I might’ve have been in a playoff but it didn’t happen. The 18th fairway is such a hard fairway to hit because there’s such elevation and I’m aiming way right with my tee shot and it’s still missed left.
“I got a yardage which I thought was about 11 meters and just chipped a 9-iron. I was pretty happy with it off the club and it was a decent shot.”
Sexton-Finck will return to the RACV Royal Pines Resort from December 19-22 for a second time to tee it up in a field that includes former champions Cameron Smith, Adam Scott and big-hitting American Cameron Champ.
“It’s probably about as intimidating as this golf course to be honest but it’s great to have the big names there,” Sexon-Finck said of joining the field.
“It makes the event a bit of a spectacle so it’ll be wonderful to be a part of that field.”
With a strong final round of even-par Sam Eaves has secured third place at five-over the card ahead of Jamie Hook at six-over.
ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia regular Anthony Choat also made a charge in the final round, sitting at even-par to round out the top-five.
The Vicars Shield is awarded to the leading state and is calculated on the best two aggregate scores for the three rounds of competition.
Each state nominates two professionals who have qualified at their State PGA Professionals Championship to represent their side in the Vicars Shield.
Josh Lane and Alexander Simpson were elected for New South Wales and have regained the shield for the state for the first time since 2016.
The Vicars Shield was first presented to the PGA in 1930 by the late Sir William Vicars, a keen golfer and a prominent member of The Australian Golf Club, for competition between professional interstate teams.