AUSTRALIAN Steven Jeffress walked away $329,000 richer after winning the inaugural Fiji International at the Natadola Bay Championship Course yesterday.
The 38-year-old carded ten under par 278 to win by four shots from fellow Australian Jake Higginbottom.
Ironically, Jeffress was the first golfer to tee-off on the opening day and the last to putt during the tournament to earn victory.
Jeffress and Higginbottom started the final round tied at eight under par and it was Jeffress who made a blemish on the first hole with a bogey.
Pressure also got to Higginbottom as the winds picked up speed. The 20-year-old made consecutive bogeys on the second and third holes to fall behind.
With local caddie Inoke Ratuva from Cuvu on his bag, Jeffress turned things around on the back nine recording birdies on the 15th , 17th, and 18th to post a historic victory in Fiji's richest sporting event.
Jeffress said he was surprised to win.
"There is a lot of years of hard work and the win hasn't sunk in yet, it is very special," he said.
"I have got a lot of families and friends who were telling me to keep on going and this would happen. I know how to play this golf course and just grind it out to stay out of trouble.
"I knew that even if I missed a few putts early, if I stayed steady and rolled away then I would be there at the end."
Jeffress charged up the leader board on Saturday with a three under par to tie for the lead with Higginbottom.
His previous wins on the PGA Tour Australia was at the 2006 Victorian Open and the 2006 Victorian Open PGA Championship.
Jeffress is no stranger to the Natadola course playing here often.
He said the highlight of the day was the shot on the 12th hole. "The wind was straight into us," Jeffress said.
"It was bunker over water on to the pin. A lot of bad stuff could have happened. I hit it on the green and made par.
"On the 15th it was windy and about 121 metres. I hit a 52 degree wedge. When I first hit it, I didn't believe I had quite hit it hard enough.
"Obviously with the wind, you get a strong gust early. Probably seven or eight foot behind the hole, Noks my caddie said that the wind was going to knock it towards the left, so I just stayed inside right and hit the putt and it went in.
"This is the number one win in my career without a doubt. I don't know who picked me to tee off first on the starting day. I have been a pro for many years. It is quite nice to tee off with the first shot and putt the last to win."
Star attraction and former world number one Nick Price finished on a tie for 35th position while Vijay Singh finished tied for tenth.
Fiji's Dinesh Chand, Sam Lee and Krishna Singh missed the cut.
Top ten finishers: 10 Steven Jeffress, 6 Jake Higginbottom, 2 Terry Pilkadaris, Andrew Dodt, 1 In-Hoi Hur; even par Tae Hoon Kim, Ryan Fox, Michael Sim, +1 Hyo Won Park; + 2 Vijay Singh, Brad Kennedy.
* More on PAGE 31