QINHUANGDAO, HEBEI, CHINA—Nick Voke beat England’s Stephen Lewton in a playoff to win the Qinhuangdao Championship and become the first New Zealander to win a PGA TOUR Series-China title since Josh Geary in 2015.
The 23-year-old Voke, playing in the penultimate group, shot a 6-under 66 to set the clubhouse lead at 12-under at Qinhuangdao Poly Golf Club before third-round co-leader Lewton birdied the final hole to force a 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 deny Lewton, who was hoping to become the Tour’s first English winner.
American Charlie Saxon (71), the third-round co-leader with Lewton, was third at 9-under, one ahead of compatriots Sejun Yoon (67) and Kevin Lee (68), and Australians Max McCardle (69) and James Marchesani (69), last year’s Clearwater Bay Open winner. Chinese duo Yechun “Carl” Yuan (69) and Bowen Xiao (65) shared eighth at 7-under.
The top-five on the money list remained the same, with Saxon followed by England’s Callum Tarren, Korean Todd Baek, American Joseph Winslow and Hong Kong’s Motin Yeung.
Voke, who turned pro in January, was thrilled to get his first win as a professional, in only his second appearance on the Tour, after a tie for fourth at the previous week’s Suzhou Open.
The Auckland resident continued his excellent form in Qinhuangdao, finishing with six birdies in a bogey-free final round, and 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 featuring five victories.
“If I don’t qualify for the Web.com Tour, I will play here in China. 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, who played a full season on the European Tour in 2011, 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 17 before birdieing the final hole to force a playoff, but missed his birdie attempt on the second extra hole, which benefitted 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.
“I hit one slightly errant tee-shot on 17 that put me in trouble and an errant second to make bogey, then 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.”
Saxon briefly shared the lead with Lewton after carding his fifth birdie of the day on 14, but three bogeys in his final four holes left him three adrift.
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.”
Any player in the top-25 of the money list after the Qinhuangdao Championship is exempt to the Second Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament, which will be held from October 30-November 2 and November 6-9.
The 2018 PGA TOUR Series-China concludes with the Macau Championship (September 27-30), Zhuhai Championship (October 4-7) and Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong (October 11-14).
From the final Order of Merit, the top-5 will earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, top-10 players are exempt to the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament from December 6-9 and any player ranked 11-25 is exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.
The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.