The National, Monday, May 16, 2011
QUEENSLANDER Matthew Ballard won the 2011 South Pacific Export Lager Papua New Guinea Golf Open yesterday picking up A$125,000 in prize money in what many obervers said were the toughest conditions at the Open in recent years.
Ballard put together a final round one-under 71 for a four round of five-under, to not only win by seven shots from last week’s Morobe Open winner Heath Reed, but to also finish as the only player under par.
The showdown that loomed between Ballard and Reed never really eventuated, with Ballard skipping out to a four-shot lead with nine holes to play.
Further birdies at the 10th and 15th holes allowed Ballard a seven-shot lead walking up the 18th giving him the opportunity to really take in the accolades from the 3,000 strong gallery around the final hole.
This is one of the biggest wins of Ballard’s professional career and the first place cheque will go a long way to setting up his schedule for the rest of this season.
“It’s a great feeling to win the national title of Papua New Guinea and it was great to see all the local support over the final nine holes.
“I was a little nervous at the start of the day knowing that Heath was playing well, but I was able to compose myself when I needed to and walked away with my first national title,” he told the post-match conference at the 18th hole after being declared winner.
Ballard said last year’s participation at the PNG Open helped him a lot to master the greens this time around at the Port Moresby golf course.
“The preparation, the major sponsor and PNG was great, the place and hospitality was fantastic.
“I enjoyed great hospitality after being billeted bylocal golfer and one of the tournament’s sponsor Vincent Mirupasi during the four-day tournament. Ballard vowed to comeback to defend the PNG Open next year.
Billet Vincent Mirupasi said after declaration of the winner that he was over the moon saying he had a feeling Ballard would win the tournament.
“He is a very strong player and I have every confidence on him to win the richest Queensland Division PGA tournament,” he said.
Mirupasi through his law firm, Mirupasi Lawyers sponsored the 8th hole during the tournament.
For Reed, who looked the one to beat heading into the final round never really seemed in the hunt and closed with a three over par 75 to finish outright second.
Reed will take his current form into the One Asia event in Korea next week.
Tasmanian Scott Priest finished in third place after a final round 72 with a further shot back to fourth-placed Dean Meagher who enjoyed the best finish of his young professional career.
New Zealander Michael Hendry recorded the highlight of the final round with the Kiwi executing the perfect shot at the 164 metre second hole to record the only hole-in-one for the tournament.