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Impressive Voke Grabs Maiden China Win

Impressive New Zealand rookie Nick Voke has claimed his maiden professional win on the PGA Tour Series China (Photo: PGA Tour Series China)
Nick Voke hasn’t played on PGA TOUR Series-China for long, but he’s certainly made his presence felt.

The 23-year-old Voke beat England’s Stephen Lewton in a playoff Sunday to win the Qinhuangdao Championship and becOme the first New Zealander to win a PGA TOUR Series-China title since Josh Geary in 2015.

Voke, playing in the second-to-last group, shot a 6-under 66 at Qinhuangdao Poly Golf Club to take the clubhouse lead, at 12-under, and then watched as Lewton, the third-round co-leader, birdied the final hole to force the playoff.

Both players parred the par-3 18th on the first extra hole and when they played the hole again, Voke sank a winning 15-foot birdie putt to win.

Voke, who turned pro in January, was thrilled to get his first win as a professional in only his second appearance on the Tour. In his debut last week, he tied for fourth at the Suzhou Open. 

The Auckland resident continued his excellent form here, finishing with six birdies in a bogey-free final round, and he has already set his sights on next year’s Web.com Tour after the victory propelled him to 13th on the Order of Merit.

“This victory opens up some opportunities for me, and it’s pretty exciting to see what doors can open from it,” said Voke, who graduated from Iowa State University in 2017 after a college career that featured five victories.

“If I don’t qualify for the Web.comTour, I will play here in China (in 2019). I feel it’s the best pathway to get to the Web.com Tour and hopefully play well enough there to get through that pathway [to the PGA TOUR].”

Lewton held the lead for most of the day, after birdies at Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 9, but struggled to keep the putts dropping on the back nine, where he reeled off seven successive pars.

The 35-year-old Englishman picked up his first bogey of the day on No. 17 before birdieing 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. I birdied two, four and five, made a great par save on seven and then birdied nine, so I was out in 4-under. On the back nine, I played really good again but just didn’t hole any putts,” said Lewton, who played college golf at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

“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.”

American Charlie Saxon briefly shared the lead with Lewton after carding his fifth birdie of the day, on No. 14, but three bogeys in his final four holes left him three shots out of the playoff.

The 25-year-old, who has two wins on the Tour this year, extended his lead on the Order of Merit but felt he was let down by his putter and was disappointed not to secure a Tour-record fifth career win.

“My ball striking was rock solid, but this was maybe my worst putting week I’ve had as a professional,” said Saxon.

“It just wasn’t my day. Hopefully I will be better next time.”

The highest Australian finishers were James Marchesani and Max McCardle, who both tied for fourth, four shots out of the playoff.

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