Wollongong youngster Jordan Zunic is celebrating a breakthrough victory in the New Zealand Open – only his fourth tournament as a professional.
The 22-year-old produced a display of sustained quality with scores of 68 66 66 66 to triumph by one shot at 21-under-par from veteran countryman David Bransdon as Australians swamped the final leaderboard, claiming the top nine spots.
Bransdon finished with a 64 at The Hills course at Arrowtown, making birdies on eight of his last 10 holes, but his bogey at the 18th cost him plenty as Zunic holed a two-metre birdie putt on the last to avoid a playoff.
Zunic turned pro despite failing to earn a card at the Australasian tour school and he only got into the NZ Open thanks to a top-10 finish at the New Zealand PGA Championship last week where he was a qualifier.
His victory was all the sweeter for his grim experience when involved in a serious car crash while playing as an amateur in the US last year.
He was hospitalised for two months with severe head cuts, a broken elbow and a big loss of blood.
“When I started playing again, I just felt so grateful to be breathing and out there playing golf. I could have easily died, and that actually helped me play better,” Zunic told stuff.co.nz.
“The first six months there were some medical issues I had to get over.
“Once I got over them, I feel like it’s really built character for me and made me a little wiser.
“I know it was horrible at the time but I feel like it’s made me a stronger person. As my dad always says, everything happens for a reason.”
Zunic collected a winner’s cheque for $A164,000 and earns a two-year exemption on the Australasian PGA Tour.
Kristopher Mueck was third, three shots behind Zunic after a 69.
Fellow Australians Cameron Smith (66) and Brad Kennedy (68) tied for fourth, while countrymen Daniel Fox (64), Peter Fowler (66), Scott Arnold (67) and Aaron Pike (71) tied sixth.