Kurt Kitayama earns 1st European Tour win in just 3rd start

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Kurt Kitayama earns 1st European Tour win in just 3rd start

Euro Tour

Kurt Kitayama earns 1st European Tour win in just 3rd start

It took Kurt Kitayama just three tournaments to settle into the European Tour. The former UNLV player returned a closing 4-under 68 to win the $1.1 million AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, his maiden European Tour win.

The Californian defeated India’s S. Chikkarangappa and Matthieu Pavon of France by two shots after compiling a 20-under 268. The 25-year-old began the final round tied for the lead with South Africa’s Justin Hardin, but got off to a great start by playing holes three to five in 4 under.

“I’m just so proud, really happy,” said Kitayama, who earned a check for $180,000. “It’s an unbelievable moment for me, I’m just so happy I was able to pull it off.”

Kitayama survived a scare on the 16th when he three-putted to bogey the hole. However, he bounced back with a birdie at the 17th to give himself some breathing room down the last.

“There were definitely some nerves around the first tee shot. Going birdie-eagle-birdie helped to calm things down for the rest of the day.

“I was aware a little bit of what was going on, I kept one eye on the scoreboard. I just tried to stay calm and take it one shot at a time. It was important on 13 to get back with another birdie. I just tried to stay patient.”

Kitayama played the Asian and Web.com tours this year before taking the fourth card at last month’s European Tour Qualifying School. His main aim was just to keep his playing rights this season. The win earns him a one-year exemption to the end of 2020.

“This whole year has been, well, what a great year. It’s been a different journey for me (going from Web.com Tour to Asian Tour to European Tour). It’s been really exciting, being able to travel all over the globe and I’m going to continue to travel more. I’m really looking forward to it.”

He moves to second on the European points list behind England’s Aaron Rai, winner of last week’s Honma Hong Kong Open. Kitayama’s victory is the 223rd European Tour win for a United States player.

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