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.
(Photo courtesy PGA Tour of Australasia)
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