Christchurch, New Zealand
Last year on the PGA Tour was a learning experience for Gavin Coles. Not all the lessons, however, were of the sort the outspoken Aussie wants to remember.
“I learned that mentally I’m pretty bad. I’m a head case,” Coles said late last year during the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School. “I would stand on the first tee and start worrying about missing the cut.”
On Feb. 29 at an unyielding Clearwater Resort layout, the 35-year-old learned he still has what it takes to find the winner’s circle. Coles drained an 80-foot putt on the final hole to cap a 4-under-par 68 and win the New Zealand PGA Championship by three strokes.
Coles – whose nickname, Angry Ant, matches his diminutive statue and fiery personality – started with rounds of 70-72-72 in consistently difficult conditions. He finished with a 6-under 282 total, while Brendan Jones (71), Bradley Hughes (71) and Bill Lunde (73) tied at 285.
Coles’ last victory came at the 2002 Jacob’s Creek Open, another PGA Tour of Australasia and Nationwide Tour co-sanctioned event that propelled him to a top-15 finish on the secondary circuit and a spot on the PGA Tour.
“Sure I haven’t won for two years but I’ve played a lot of golf, seen a lot of golf courses and I’ve played on the best tour in the world for 12 months and gained some better experience, and I think down the stretch I handled that really good,” said Coles, who made the cut in seven of 28 PGA Tour events last year.
Coles matched or beat par on the 7,137-yard Clearwater Resort course in each round to remain one of only nine players to finish with sub-par totals. The victory was worth $139,248 and moved him to second on the Nationwide Tour money list through three events, $34,188 behind Jacob’s Creek winner Euan Walters.
American rookie Lunde began the week with solid rounds of 69-70 but struggled on the weekend, playing his final 36 holes in 2 over.
Fellow third-round co-leader Peter Senior, who earned a share of the lead with a third-round-best 69 in lashing rain and winds that gusted to 50 mph, didn’t fare any better, posting only one birdie to three bogeys for a final-round 74. He tied for fifth.