Kiwi Kazuma Kobori has buried the demons of a final round collapse at the Victorian PGA Championship to complete a two-stroke victory at the Webex Players Series Murray River at Cobram Barooga Golf Club.
Admitting that his three-stroke overnight lead made for a restless night’s sleep, Kobori conquered hot and blustery conditions at Cobram Barooga’s Old Course to close with a 3-under par round of 68 and 21-under total.
That was enough to hold off a spirited charge from Singapore’s Shannon Tan (65) in her maiden event as a professional with older sister Momoka Kobori (68) tied for third with Aussie pair Aaron Wilkin (68) and Andrew Martin (69).
Although Kono Matsumoto (8-iron, 134 metres) and Zach Murray (pitching wedge, 151 metres) both made hole-in-ones at the par-3 ninth on Sunday, low scores were the exception to the rule.
Tan and Jake McLeod returned the day’s best with rounds of 6-under 65, Kobori having to adjust his pre-round strategy of patience being his greatest virtue.
“At the start I did think I was going to just try and take advantage of the par 5s and hang on but soon realised that Shannon was moving up pretty quickly,” Kobori conceded.
“That strategy changed pretty quickly.”
After a birdie at the par-5 first, a poor chip at the par-4 second was the first squeeze of pressure placed on the 22-year-old.
With Ashley Lau in tight at the back pin, Kobori was forced to stare down a 15-foot putt for par to keep his advantage from all but disappearing.
“That one was big because Ashley hit it in close and I was like, She’s probably going to make that,” said Kobori.
“I flubbed my chip and I was like, we can’t have a two-shot swing this early in the round.
“Holed that, gave it a wee fist pump so that was nice and then went from there.”
Birdies at six and 10 ensured Kobori had a three-shot buffer for much of the afternoon.
A three-putt for bogey on 11 – just his fourth bogey of the week – briefly gave Tan and others a glimpse at the top of the leaderboard, his birdie from the fringe on 12 restoring a two-shot advantage with six to play.
Six pars would prove to be enough, sister Momoka joined by fellow Kiwi Hanee Song and young South Australian Jack Buchanan in showering her younger brother in champagne.
“It was just nerve-wracking because I had that experience at Moonah, blew a six-shot lead,” Kobori said of his final round of 77 at Moonah Links in November.
“But I realised that it doesn’t change my life. It’s just another round of golf and having that experience freed me up today to be able to unleash on every single shot.”
Sunday’s win is Kobori’s second on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia having won the 2019 New Zealand PGA Championship as a 17-year-old amateur.
It was that experience that he drew upon to earn his first victory as a professional.
“It does feel like a lifetime ago because a lot has changed since then but it’s something that I still draw confidence from too,” said Kobori, who turned professional at the Queensland PGA Championship last November.
“I’ve done it once, why can’t I do it again.”
Making his first appearance in the Webex All Abilities Players Series, Wayne Perske shot rounds of 80-71 to win the Murray River leg by seven shots from defending champion Cameron Pollard.
In the Webex Junior Players Series, Nicholas Horvath produced two superb rounds of 70-68 for a 4-under total, six clear of Shepparton junior Bailey Goodall with Australian Amateur runner-up Amelia Harris third.