Nick Voke’s first win as a professional comes in China

Nick Voke tees off at the first hole in the Qinhuangdao Championship in China

Nick Voke tees off at the first hole in the Qinhuangdao Championship in China

Nick Voke didn’t take long to make his mark on the PGA Tour of China.

The Auckland golfer was last month having just his second start on the China circuit when he prevailed in a playoff to win the Qinhuangdao Championship.

It was only the previous week that Voke, 23, made his debut on the PGA Tour of China when he tied for fourth in the Suzhou Open.

The Qinhuangdao Championship is Voke’s first win since becoming a professional golfer at the beginning of the year. The victory earned him about $NZ60,000 and he catapulted up the world rankings from 911 to 575.

The win came in dramatic circumstances. He scored a brilliant bogey-free six-under par 66 on the final day’s play to finish the regulation 72 holes at 12 under par.

Voke was in the second-last group and had the tournament lead when he walked off the 18th but then had to watch third round co-leader Stephen Lewton of England birdie the 18th to force a sudden death playoff.

The first extra hole, the par three 18th, was halved with both players scoring pars.

Voke and Lewton again returned to the 18th tee for a second extra hole and this time Voke emerged triumphant when he holed a 15-foot putt for birdie.

Voke is now eyeing playing on the Tour in the United States next year, which is the development circuit to the world’s richest golf circuit, the PGA Tour. The top five players on the PGA Tour of China’s order of merit gain status on next year’s Tour.

“This victory opens up some opportunities for me,’’ Voke said after the win in China.

“It’s pretty exciting to see what doors can open from it. If I don’t qualify for the Tour, I will play here in China (in 2019). I feel it’s the best pathway to get to the Tour and hopefully play well enough there to get through that pathway (to the PGA Tour).”

Lewton held the lead for most of the final day, after birdies at holes two, four, five and nine but struggled to keep the putts dropping on the back nine, where he included seven successive pars.

The 35-year-old Englishman picked up his first bogey of the day on No 17 before scoring a birdie on the final hole to force the extra session. But his missed birdie attempt on the second extra hole opened the door for Voke as the New Zealander’s putt was a couple of feet in front and on a similar line.

“I got off to a really good start,’’ Lewton said.

“I birdied two, four and five, made a great par save on seven and then birdied nine, so I was out in four-under. On the back nine, I played really good again but just didn’t hole any putts.

“I hit one slightly errant tee shot on 17 that put me in trouble and an errant second to make bogey. Then I birdied the last to force a playoff, but it wasn’t to be. In the playoff, I was just trying to hit it as close as possible. That’s all you can do in a playoff; it’s win or lose.”

The PGA Tour of China concludes it 2018 season with the Zhuhai Championship (October 4-7) and Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong (October 11-14).

Fellow New Zealander Luke Toomey also enjoyed playing another four rounds of golf in the Qinhuangdao Championship to finish 31st which gave him ample time to get the champagne ready for Voke’s special moment.