UNLV grad Kurt Kitayama demonstrates resilience with Oman Open title

MUSCAT, OMAN - MARCH 03: Kurt Kitayama of USA celebrates winning on the 18th hole during Day four of the Oman Golf Classic at Al Mouj Golf on March 03, 2019 in Muscat, Oman. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) Warren Little/Getty Images

UNLV grad Kurt Kitayama demonstrates resilience with Oman Open title

Euro Tour

UNLV grad Kurt Kitayama demonstrates resilience with Oman Open title

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Kurt Kitayama looked down and out of the $1.75 million Oman Open after three holes of his third round. Imagine his surprise 33 holes later when he was standing with the trophy.

The UNLV grad picked up his second European Tour win in just his 10th start since getting his card at last year’s Qualifying School with a one-shot victory over four players.

The Chico, Calif., native held the first-round lead after a 66. Strong winds caused havoc on day two, and he was just one shot off the lead after 36 holes. He didn’t tee off his third round until 5:10 p.m. local time as organizers struggled to get play finished.

Kitayama, 26, began his third round with a quadruple bogey eight, and added two more bogeys before darkness suspended play. The suspension couldn’t come quick enough for the European Tour rookie.

“The way we started that third round, I was like, ‘can we stop right now?’” Kitayama admitted.

He was a different player when he returned Sunday morning to Al Mouj Golf in the Oman capital Muscat. He played the remaining 15 holes of his third round in 7 under to post a 1-under 71 and get back into the tournament.

“It gave me a refresh and it was incredible coming back.”

Three shots off the lead heading into the final round, Kitayama returned a 2-under-par 70 to post a 7-under 281 aggregate, one shot better than Spain’s Jorge Campillo, Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer, Frenchman Clement Sordet and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay.

Kitayama picked up a check for $291,000 to take his season earnings to $517,000. He won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in his third start after securing his European Tour card at last year’s Qualifying School.

“This one feels really good because when I won the first one I was playing really well and it just felt like it was coming,” he said. “This week I came in off three missed cuts and not having good weekends in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It feels great to grind through all of that.”

Kitayama moves to fourth on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. He’s also in poll position to become the first American to be named Sir Henry Cotton rookie of the year since Peter Uihlein in 2013.

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