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Alker Breaks Kiwi Drought

3/8/2009

Steve Alker has broken a hometown drought at the NZ PGA Championship, claiming a comfortable two-stroke victory as a thrilling finish failed to materialise in the final round

A New Zealander had never won since the reintroduction of the NZ PGA at Clearwater in 2004, while it had also been 22 long years since Frank Nobilo was a popular Kiwi winner in the event's previous life in 1987.

Alker changed all that, matching Saturday's 67 in a performance that was the epitome of composure to complete the tournament on 15-under 273.

It was his first tournament victory since the 2002 Louisiana Open.

New Zealand's past NZ PGA struggles, where only three players had finished in the top 10 since 2004, also became a thing of the past as David Smail and Josh Geary completed strong weeks in a tie for second.

Smail notched consecutive runner-up finishes with a final-round 68 to end the week at 13-under and was joined by Geary with a blemish-free 67.

Equal-fourth a shot further back were Aussie Michael Sim, Norwegian Henrik Bjornstad along with American Ryan Hietala.

Overnight leader Steve Friesen fell by the wayside on Sunday, as did playing partner Kurt Barnes as Alker's fellow players in the final group failed to cope with the pressure.

The world No.1 amateur and Johnnie Walker Classic winner reached 12-under when he birdied the tough par-three 9th but a rollercoaster back side saw bogeys at the 12th, 13th, 15th along with birdies at the final two holes to sign for a 70.

Leaderboard – Final:

1. Steve Alker                      NZL  69 70 67 67 273 -15
2. Josh Geary                       NZL  72 65 71 67 275 -13
    David Smail                     NZL  68 71 68 68 275 -13
4. Michael Sim                     AUS  71 66 72 67 276 -12
    Henrik Bjornstad              NOR  71 70 68 67 276 -12
    Ryan Hietala                    USA  71 67 69 69 276 -12
7. Josh Teater                      USA  67 68 75 67 277 -11
    Gavin Coles                     AUS  70 68 71 68 277 -11
    Jason Norris                     AUS  73 65 70 69 277 -11
    Danny Lee (a)                  NZL  71 67 69 70 277 -11
    Steve Friesen                   USA  69 67 69 72 277 -11

Source: NZPGA

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