Steve Alker’s one shot win at the end-of-season Charles Schwab Cup Championship secured him a $1.7 million cheque just in time for the Kiwi summer.
The 52-year-old held off former World No 1 Ernie Els and Canadian Stephen Ames to win the final event of the PGA Tour Champions season.
The performance earned him $895,423 (US$528,00) from the prize pool, as well as a further $847,985 for finishing second in the Charles Schwab Cup points race to take his total purse from the event to a cool $1.74m.
Alker had already pocketed $3,526,488 this season, which had him sitting third in the earnings list - adding the final event and points ranking gives him over $5.2m in earnings for the year.
Alker started the final round with a four-shot lead but made it a lot harder than he needed.
Els, who opened with five birdies in eight holes to get in the mix, was one shot behind on the par-5 18th when his 5-iron leaked just enough to the right to bounce off the side of the hill and into the water. He had to scramble for a par and a 65.
Ames, a four-time winner this year, birdied the 18th for a 65.
They were still one shot behind Alker, who missed the green on the 16th and 17th and managed to save par. Going to the par-5 closing hole, he chose to lay up from what otherwise would have been a 5-iron. He figured he could make birdie 75 per cent of the time by laying up, and all he needed was a par.
But then his wedge to the 18th went too far and rolled down a slight bank at the back. He chipped that to just inside 3 feet and holed the par putt to finish at 18-under 266.
“I made it exciting here on 18,” Alker said, “but that wasn’t the plan.”
The Kiwi won in late April but then didn’t win again until the last tournament of the year.
“It’s another win,” Alker said. “To beat these guys ... it’s hard to win out here.”
Ames said that overall he thought it “obviously is a good season”.
“Four wins in there, in my books I grade it as a B-plus only because I thought it was a bit inconsistent. Last year was a lot more consistent where I had more opportunities to win. This year I didn’t have as many, but I still won four, which is nice.”
Alker’s payday takes him to eighth in New Zealand’s top 10 highest sporting earners for the calendar year, in between fellow golfers Ryan Fox and Lydia Ko.
Ko earned an estimated $4.99m in 12 months, with Fox taking $5.6m after backing up his strong year last year. Golf is proving to be a lucrative venture for Kiwis, Fox alone has earnings from the past two years alone of a not-to-be-scoffed-at $11 million.
Futher, World No 635 Kiwi Ben Campbell birdied the final two holes at the Hong Kong Open to edge major winner Cam Smith and claim the US$2 million ($1.7m) overnight.
Campbell had not led at any stage of the tournament until his last putt to finish at 19 under par and beat Smith.
- with AP
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