Vincent Victorious in Landmark Asian Tour Event

Scott Vincent emerged triumphant in the International Series England. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Newcastle, England: Scott Vincent could’ve been forgiven for thinking this wasn’t going to be his week when he turned up at Slaley Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort – but his golf clubs didn’t.

Happily, the missing clubs materialised in time for the US$2 million International Series England and worked to stunning effect as the popular Zimbabwean recorded a one-shot victory.

In the final round he fought out a pulsating back-nine birdie battle with overnight leader Travis Smyth before sealing success with a seven-foot par putt on the final green.

“It’s amazing,” said 30-year-old Vincent, reacting to his maiden Asian Tour triumph. “This is the Tour I started on, so it’s nice to get the first win here. It has felt like a long time but my game is trending in a good direction.”

Absent clubs aside, Vincent came to the north-east of England with his game in great shape. He won the Mizuno Open last Sunday on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation and kept his fine form throughout the Asian Tour’s first-ever UK tournament.

Three rounds in the 60s left him at seven-under and a stroke behind Smyth going into the final day.

Vincent immediately set out his intentions with birdies at the opening two holes before tree trouble at the third saw him give back both shots.

“Three was just a huge anomaly,” he said. “After coming off that kind of start, you hate to give it away so quickly but I knew there was so much still to play.

“The front nine was not giving up many shots, so anything around even par and you’ve got a fighting chance going into the back nine. That’s kind of where I left myself, which was great.

“Then lots of birdies were made coming in and it was very exciting. I just had to be very patient.”

Vincent mustered four birdies in six holes to the 16th to take control but his skills and focus were given the sternest examination by Smyth.

The talented Australian launched his own scoring spree over the closing holes and drew level at 12-under on the par-three 17th, thanks to a stunning mid-iron to 10 feet from where he duly converted.

It looked as if Smyth held the advantage after finding the fairway on the last, while Vincent erred slightly left into the rough. But the twists and turns continued as Smyth pushed his approach into a greenside bunker.

Vincent duly pounded on a pitching wedge to find the front of the green and put the pressure on the Aussie, who was unable to get up and down.

Vincent still had plenty of work left after coming up short with a long-range birdie putt. But he showed a steely resolve to hole out for a five-under 66 and secure the US$360,000 first prize, becoming the first Zimbabwean to win on the Asian Tour.

“It got very close at the end, but it kind of fell in my favour and I’m very thankful,” he said.

Despite the bogey on 18, Smyth was philosophical about losing out on his first Asian Tour title.

Smyth, who carded a closing 68 to record his best finish on the Asian Tour, said: “Awesome week! Coming into the week I just really wanted to play solid. I did not have any expectations. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I can’t wait to be in the position again.”

Thai Sadom Kaewkanjana secured third place after shooting a 69 to finish three behind Vincent, while South African Justin Harding was a shot further back after also carding a 69. Last year’s Asian Tour number one Kim Joo-hyung from Korea was fifth after shooting 72.

The International Series England also saw five golfers earn their spots at next week’s $25 million LIV Invitational Series at Centurion Club.

Smyth and Indian Viraj Madappa both claimed berths as the two highest finishers from the Slaley Hall event who were not otherwise exempt. South African Ian Snyman, Kevin Yuan from Australia and Thai Itthipat Buranatanyarat will be joining them, having qualified from the cumulative International Series Order of Merit.

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