South Australian Peter Cooke won the 2019 SP PNG Open after an impressive performance at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club in Papua New Guinea.
In his first appearance at the tournament, Cooke started the final day with a two-shot lead before going on to win the title by two shots from Jack Wilson with rounds of 71, 65, 64 and 70 for a tournament total 18-under 270.
“I didn’t watch any scores through the whole round today so I didn’t really have any idea where I was at when playing the last few holes,” Cooke said. “Obviously we had the scoreboard for our group, but I kind of had to wait until I’d holed the last putt and just judge by the reaction of everyone and ask a few officials. Once I got the OK and all clear, it was awesome, I’m stoked.”
Winning the SP PNG Open marks Cooke’s maiden win on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia after finishing runner-up at the WA PGA Championship in 2014.
“It’s awesome,” Cooke said. “I’ve obviously waited a long time. It’s what I live for. I love golf and I’ve always wanted to be a pro. This justifies a lot of hard work that I’ve put into the game so it’s so satisfying and such a great feeling.”
Maintaining his lead for the duration of the fourth round, an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole helped extend Cooke’s lead, with birdies on the 12th and 13th holes helping seal his fate.
“That was awesome,” Cooke said of the eagle. “I had that putt earlier in the week and left it short. This time I thought, Don’t leave it short this time and when it rolled in the middle I was like, ‘You beauty! We’re off!’ so it was a great momentum getter.”
Holding a four-shot lead on two occasions in the final round, the competition closed in as the tournament came to its conclusion with runner-up Wilson firing three birdies in a row from holes 14 to 16 to bring the margin down to two shots.
Admitting some nerves crept in as he played the final few holes, Cooke was pleased he was able to maintain his composure to close out the tournament.
“The last two holes I bogeyed and I had just two bad distances,” Cooke explained. “I had to kind of choose the long club or the short club and just made a couple of uncommitted swings.
“I honestly was just thinking to myself, Don’t do anything silly, and just play smart golf. I don’t have to force anything, I’ve got a couple-shot lead.
“I didn’t let anything get to me for the whole day. Probably just closing the tournament for the first time I might’ve let a few things get to me but I just wanted to stay patient, play some quality shots and I felt like I did that.”
Cooke’s maiden win secures him an exemption on the PGA Tour of Australasia until the end of the 2020 season and opens doors around the world.
“It’s very rewarding and now I know I have what it takes to win,” Cooke said. “There are a few things I’ve been working on with my coach, Daniel Blackwell. To see them work under pressure was awesome.
“Without sounding too cliché, it’s really just part of the process but it’s going to give me some good groups in the tournaments coming up at the end of the year. With the exemption that you get from it, now I can probably have a look at a Japanese Q-School or something like that. It’s exciting.”
Praising the condition of the Royal Port Moresby course, Cooke enjoyed the experience in the heat of Papua New Guinea.
“My friends that have played here told me, ‘You should go and play – the golf course suits you.’ And my first impressions of the week were, ‘Wow this place is pretty narrow,’” Cooke said.
“As I played it a couple of times, I got a bit more comfortable with it and a lot of the landing zones suited my eye so it probably does suit me pretty well. I felt pretty comfy out there.
“It was tricky, they put some tougher flags out there and with those pin positions when I got to four-under for the day I thought it was going to be hard for anyone to go low and it turns out that’s what happened.”
A total of 16-under the card secured second place for Wilson, while a very competitive Jordan Mullaney tied for third place alongside Kade McBride at 14-under.
Dale Brandt-Richards, Brady Watt and Blake Proverbs tied for fifth at 13-under.