Busby SEO Test Golf

Alker wins New Zealand PGA Championship

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Steve Alker won the New Zealand PGA Championship on Sunday, closing with his second straight 5-under 67 for a two-stroke victory over countrymen Josh Geary and David Smail.

The 37-year-old Alker, a stroke behind American Steve Friesen at the start of the round, had a 15-under 273 total on the Bob Charles-designed Clearwater course.

The touring pro for the Clearwater Resort for three years starting in 2002, Alker earned $108,000 and full Nationwide Tour membership for the rest of the season with the win in the event also sanctioned by the Australasian tour.

“It’s pretty special to win here,” Alker said. “It’s great to come back here and see all the members and staff. It’s really been a fun week for me.”

Alker became the first New Zealander to win the tournament since its reintroduction in 2004 and the first to win a Nationwide Tour event in New Zealand. Alker’s win came seven years after his first Nationwide win in the 2002 Louisiana Open.

“It’s pretty special, being the first New Zealand winner of the PGA at Clearwater,” Alker said. “I’ve got some friends and family down here this week and friends and family back in the United Kingdom who are actually asleep at the moment. I had to give my wife a quick call, but I actually forgot it’s her birthday today.”

American Ryan Hietala (69), Australia’s Michael Sim (67), Norway’s Henrik Bjornstad (67) tied for fourth at 12 under. Friesen shot a 72 to tie for seventh at 11 under.

Danny Lee, the New Zealand amateur who won Johnnie Walker Classic last month, also finished at 11 under after a 70. The 18-year-old Lee, the U.S. Amateur champion, plans to turn pro after the Masters. Born in South Korea, he moved to New Zealand at age 8.

Alker tied for first in fairways hit and greens in regulation. He hit 32 of 36 greens in regulation in the final two rounds.

“It was a determined effort to get my game in that kind of shape,” Alker said. “I’m not the biggest guy and certainly not one of the longest hitters out here. I’ve always focused my golf on hitting as many fairways and greens as possible.”

He played the event on a sponsor exemption.

“It’s nice that my game held up. I made of couple of putts at the right time. It’s been a bit of a dry spell for me,” said Alker, who missed the cut last week in the Moonah Classic. “Obviously, this comes at a really good time for me.”

Associated Press