Marchesani roars home for first title

James Marchesani
James Marchesani savours his first professional title in Hong Kong. Picture: Zhuang Liu, PGA TOUR-China

Australia’s James Marchesani sank a pressure-packed 2m birdie putt on the final hole to win the first title of his pro career, at the PGA TOUR-China’s Clearwater Bay Open.

Against a South China Sea backdrop in Hong Kong, Marchesani, 27, who started the day four under as one of three co-leaders, shot a three-under-par 67 at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club for a seven-under total of 273 and a one-stroke victory over his playing partner, England’s Callum Tarren.

Eugene Wong, whose father is from Hong Kong, shot a day's best 66 to secure third at four under, the Canadian’s best PGA TOUR-China result since 2015 when he finished fifth on the Order of Merit.

By finishing top three, all three also earned starts in the first three tournaments of the 2018 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica schedules.

Australia’s Chris Wood and New Zealand’s Fraser Wilkin tied for fourth at three under.

But the day belonged to Marchesani, who spent much of the day trailing Tarren.

The round became a battle of two 27-year-olds looking for their breakthrough wins as pros, with the Victorian snaring an eagle on the par-5 15th and a birdie on the par-5 18th to triumph.

"I feel pretty good for a pretty good reason because the trophy’s mine. It’s been a long week but a very good one, and I’m very pleased to notch that first win," said Marchesani, who tied for second in August at the Fiji International.

"I’ve had a couple of close looks at other tournaments, but the game was feeling good coming into this week, and now I’ve come to the top.

"It was a good battle on the back, and Callum certainly pushed me to get that win."

Marchesani’s looks have — he admitted — drawn several comparisons to Lleyton Hewitt.

"I hear that all the time," said Marchesani, who showed similar grit to the Australian tennis legend by clawing back four strokes on the back nine.

Marchesani, who played four years of college golf at Oklahoma City University, made two birdies and four bogeys — including three in a row from No.5 — on the front nine to sit two under, while Tarren made the turn at six under.

However, the gap closed to two after No.10 as the Australian sank a 6m birdie putt and Tarren three-putted for a bogey.

Marchesani then hit his tee shot on the par-3 14th to 2m and made another birdie before drawing even with an eagle on 15 as Tarren birdied.

"I knew that I’d played the back nine well all week and that if I kept hitting some good shots, there were birdies out there," said Marchesani after his PGA TOUR-China debut.

"I made a really good putt on 10, and that got the confidence up again. I probably hit my best drive of the week down 15 and only had a short iron in then ... but Callum made a great putt for birdie there to let me know he was still around."

The pair was tied going to 18, where Tarren pushed his drive right and was unable to reach the green in two. Marchesani finished just left of the green with his second, chipped to six feet and then coolly sank the birdie putt for the RMB270,000 first prize (approximately $55,000).

"The putt felt longer than it looked. It’s always a little bit harder when you know what’s on the line," Marchesani said.

"I was pretty pleased with the chip I hit down the hill to six feet, which became a lot further once I knew what the putt would actually mean. I took a few extra deep breaths, stepped up there, hit it on the line and she went in. It’s always good to know what a putt’s worth."

Marchesani is the event’s second successive Australian winner.

He said a few tips from inaugural champion Daniel Nisbet may have helped — and he may even follow his compatriot’s lead in playing across two tours after his victory earned him full membership on next year’s PGA TOUR-China.

"I played behind Dan in the pro-am, and when we stopped between holes, we went back and forth with a few ideas about where to hit it, where not to hit it. It was good to get a couple of tips. Hopefully I’ll come back next year and defend or another Aussie might pip me," Marchesani added.

"It’s still pretty early to decide, but PGA TOUR-China plays mid-year, which is the gap for our Australasian Tour, so it should work in pretty well.

"I can play on both and swing back and forth and play a full schedule for the entire year."

Tarren was disconsolate after his third runner-up finish in PGA TOUR-China events. It was also his fifth top-10 in as many weeks, including two in European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned events in China.

"I just have to keep playing. I felt comfortable out there today. I’m feeling comfortable with my game. Winning is hard, isn’t it? Well done to James. He played five under on the back nine,” said the big-hitting Tarren, who last year shot a closing 62 at Clearwater Bay.

"Obviously, I had a good 2016 PGA TOUR-China, and I’ve had a good 2017 on the golf course. I just have to keep playing and see how it goes."

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