Louis Dobbelaar’s wait for a maiden professional victory is officially over after the 21-year-old Queenslander out-duelled local hope Sung Jin Yeo to claim the New Zealand PGA Championship at Gulf Harbour Country Club.
Dobbelaar entered the pro ranks in November 2021 as the reigning Australian Amateur champion and with credentials that would suggest a smooth transition.
From the same Grant Field stable as Cameron Smith, Dobbelaar finished third in consecutive weeks at the Australian PGA Championship and Queensland PGA Championship in early 2022 yet that first win remained elusive.
Entering this week, he was without a top-10 finish anywhere in the world in almost 12 months yet played the first 52 holes bogey-free on his way to a three-stroke victory.
A one-stroke leader when play began in Auckland on Sunday, Dobbelaar stumbled with a double bogey at the par-3 third to keep the door open for Yeo to cause a stunning upset.
But, just as he did as a 15-year-old at the 2016 New Zealand Amateur championship, Dobbelaar had his father Vince on the bag as a steadying influence for the final round.
The pair regrouped and played the final 11 holes in even par to post 20-under and release the weight of expectation that comes with a breakthrough win.
“Pretty special to have him here. He saw me win the NZ Am so it was nice that he could see me do this as well,” said Dobbelaar after being showered in champagne by fellow Queenslanders Lawry Flynn and Will Bruyeres.
“It’s pretty surreal. I don’t think it will sink in for a little while.
“I’m just happy that Dad could see me win this one.”
From the outset any suggestion that the NZ PGA was not now a two-man battle was laid to rest.
Dobbelaar and Yeo both signalled their intent from the opening hole, backing up a birdie at one with a second at two to further separate themselves from the field.
Then, out of nowhere, the lead changed hands.
A double bogey by Dobbelaar at the par-3 third turned a one-shot advantage into a one-shot deficit as Yeo elevated his name to the top of the leaderboard.
Dobbelaar’s third birdie of the day at the par-4 fifth got him back on level terms and he moved one clear again with a birdie at six.
Yeo matched Dobbelaar’s birdie on seven to stay within one and when he picked up a shot on nine the pair began the back nine locked together at 20-under par.
Matching birdies on 10 saw the deadlock advance to 21-under but the ascendancy would soon swing Dobbelaar’s way.
Yeo made bogey at the par-4 11th and then double bogey on 12 to fall three back, Dobbelaar giving one back with bogey at the par-3 13th.
That would his last mis-step, making par at each of the final five holes to keep Yeo at bay, who made bogey on the last to drop to 17-under.
“We were a few shots ahead so I guess it was pretty neck-and-neck but nothing really changed. My process stayed the same,” said Dobbelaar.
“Little bit of a shaky start making double on three but it wasn’t so much a bad shot I just mis-read the wind.
“That kicked me into gear a little bit.”
Japan’s Ren Yonezawa (67), two-time former champion Michael Hendry (63) and New South Welshman Justin Warren (64) did their best to apply Sunday pressure but were never closer than five strokes from the lead.
Yonezawa finished outright third at 15-under par, Hendry, Warren, Kiwi amateur Kazuma Kobori (65) and Brett Rankin (67) sharing fourth place at 13-under par.
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