Brave but just beaten, Masterton’s Ben Campbell should hold his head high.
The 26-year-old did nearly everything right in his quest for a maiden New Zealand Open title, falling just short in a thrilling three-way playoff at Queenstown’s Millbrook Resort course.
And if it wasn’t for a wayward tee shot on the first extra hole, his effort bouncing agonisingly into the water, he could have been crowned champion.
Perhaps he should have, leading after 54 holes, but in the end, it was Auckland’s Michael Hendry who kept his nerve when it mattered, two-putting the picturesque par-three 18th to win the playoff.
Australian Brad Kennedy also shot 19-under, 266, after four rounds to make the playoff but he also put a shot into the water on the tricky 18th, which had only yielded six birdies throughout the tournament.
Hendry putted out for par to take the Brodie Breeze Trophy, the first New Zealander to do so in 14 years since Dunedin’s Mahal Pearce.
Hendry fired a final-round two-under 69 to join Kennedy and overnight leader Campbell in the three-way sudden-death play-off.
Hendry, first off the tee in the play-off, hit the green then held his nerve to sink the key putts to secure the win.
Campbell had taken a one-stroke lead over 2011 Open winner Brad Kennedy into the final day, but struggled with his timing in the cool, damp conditions at Millbrook Resort.
After three bogeys in his first 15 holes, Campbell strung together back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 to grab a share of the lead.
He parred the 18th for a final-round one-over 72 to join Kennedy, who fired an even-round 71, and Hendry, on two-under 69, in the play-off.
Kennedy’s final-round 71 included a double bogey and two bogeys offset by four birdies, while Hendry was steady without being spectacular in sinking two birdies.
Top-ranked Kiwi Ryan Fox finished the day three shots back and three-under on the day.
“It means the world,” Hendry said afterwards.
“For me, other than winning a major, this is the biggest tournament I could win.
“Just to finally get that monkey off my back with a Kiwi winning — it was very, very special.
“My game plan today was to hit as many greens as I could and get every putt to the hole.
“I think I hit 17 greens, so I achieved my game plan pretty well.”