Nisbet wins 2009 Hong Kong Amateur

Daniel Nisbet fired a peerless final round six-under 66 to win the Hong Kong Amateur Championship by two strokes at Discovery Bay Golf Club in Hong Kong. Nisbet finished the championship with a 72-hole total of eight-under 280, with rounds of 72-74-68-66, while Mhark Fernando, the reigning national champion, finished runner-up at 6-under-par. Nisbet's victory automatically gives the Queenslander a start in this week's UBS Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. "I'm still trying to fully come to grips about playing this week in the Hong Kong Open," said the 19-year-old this morning as he was preparing for his first practice run in the co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event. "My game is strong at present and I'm just looking forward to gaining the experience from playing these professional events." The win with Hong Kong Amateur also moved Nisbet inside the world's top-10 amateur ranking to become Australia's highest ranked world amateur at 9, and has two Australians currently inside that mark with Matt Jager right on the bubble at 10. "With so many great amateur players coming through in Australia, it's a real honour to be leading the way," remarked Nisbet. Nisbet is at the next phase of his development as a player having moved on from the junior ranks where he won virtually everything there was to win. Starts in main professional tour events in the immediate future will do no damage to this. "To get to that next level you have to experience what it is like to compete on the main tour," says Nisbet. "That was the plan to come to Asia and play in these events where the opportunities are. You have to plan you schedule around trying to get starts in the bigger events and that may mean going outside Australia." This week's UBS Hong Kong Open is certainly shaping up to be one of the bigger events this year in Asia. Major winners Mark O'Meara and Ben Curtis have been added to what the promotors are describing as the strongest field ever assembled for the US$2.5 million event, that's co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. The field includes South African and five time PGA Tour winner, Rory Sabbatini, and reigning European Tour Order of Merit champion Robert Karlsson, plus recent Hong Kong winners Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jiménez. "It's been such a buzz over the last few days," says Nisbet about being in Hong Kong. "Having coming from Queensland has certainly help me here in Asia, as the greens and courses are similar to back home. It's starting to sink in now about playing this event [UBS Hong Kong Open] and it is going to be amazing stepping up to the tee this Thursday." Despite Nisbet's relative young age he has the capacity to adapt to the variances associated with top level golf. This is reflective by his recent achievements over the last twelve months, a period which was effectively Nisbet's first full year out of the junior ranks. Last season in Australia, Nisbet was simply unstoppable claiming his fourth major amateur title in as many starts after winning the Keperra Bowl in May. He created history with the longest winning major Australian amateur title streak, with winning the Golf SA Amateur Classic at Royal Adelaide in April, the Queensland Men's Amateur Stroke and the Queensland Men's Amateur the next month. Nisbet then headed to the UK and US last June with game and poise, ready to make his mark on the world amateur stage. Three bogeys over the last nine holes at the St Andrews Links Trophy in June cost Nisbet a shot at claiming that championship title, as he finished in a tie for 4th position at 1-over-par and three behind eventual winner, Ireland's Alan Dunbar. During his US campaign Nisbet was again unlucky at the Sharlee Players Championship after a costly double bogey during the final round on the 379 yard, par 4 16th at Sahalee Country Club. He'd led the field for the best part of the day, yet the mistake on the 16th resulted him him falling a stroke short from eventual winner Canadian, Nick Taylor. The 2009 Hong Kong Amateur title goes down as Nisbet's first major international amateur victory and there are sure to be more to follow. At just 19-years-of age, Nisbet has time on his side to move into the game and make his mark. "It's a bit of a relief to finally get that international victory under my belt," he says. "I've come close twice now and it's even a bigger thrill to get a start at the Hong Kong Open. I keep learning new things each day, all the practice I've done in Melbourne and working with my coach, Ian, has paid off and what has got me here." This week Nisbet plans to soak in the atmosphere, play the best he can and draw from the whole experience that is professional tour events. "Hopefully, I can put a few good numbers on the board and that might open up a few more doors for me," says Nisbet. "That's all that I want to achieve, to set up my career for next year." Players of Nisbet's calibre make you ponder about their pathway ahead and what will come of them. Whilst it is dangerous to make predictions as to grandeur and what might follow, Nisbet's achievements in a space of a short time are impressive. Nisbet brings game and form way beyond his teenage years and it's exciting to follow one of Australia's most promising prospects as he makes his mark on the international golfing stage.

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