Gates wins in Nationwide Tour debut

QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand – Robert Gates became the 13th player to win his Nationwide Tour debut, closing with a 2-over 74 in windy conditions Sunday for a one-stroke victory in the tour’s season-opening New Zealand Open.

Gates, the 6-foot-6 former Texas A&M player who played the Canadian Tour last year, had a 14-under 274 total at The Hills. He opened with rounds of 65, 67 and 68 in the event also sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Gates, three strokes ahead entering the round and six ahead on the front nine, had a double bogey after hitting into the water on the par-3 16th to fall into a tie with Australia’s Andrew Dodt at 14 under, but Dodt made a double bogey on the par-5 17th.

“It was tough conditions and the wind made it a great challenge,” Gates said. “Andrew started to make putts when he needed to and it tightened up quick, but in the end I was happy how it ended up.”

The 24-year-old Gates earned $108,000.

“The trophy is nice and the check helps, but just knowing this week that I was able to play against some of the greatest golfers in the world and I was the best gives me encouragement that I’m doing things right,” Gates said.

His girlfriend, Lauren Johnson, caddied for him.

Dodt birdied the final hole for a 72 to finish second.

“He’s a great guy and I’m happy for him,” Dodt said. “I wish him all the best.”

Former Southern California star Jamie Lovemark (68) was third at 12 under.

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