Clutch Queensland Open victory first step on climb back to top
AN emotional Michael Sim admitted to thinking he might never hold a trophy again before a pin-seeking wedge on the final hole broke his eight-year drought at the Isuzu Queensland Open.
Coolly holing the 3.5m birdie putt on Sunday was the only time the classy Gold Coast-based pro led on a fluctuating final day at Brisbane Golf Club which may become his springboard into a big-time return on the Japanese tour next year.
It was a glimpse of the Sim who was once ranked inside the world top 35, won four events on the Web.com Tour and played the final round of the 2009 US Open with Tiger Woods for his top 20 finish.
Sim, 33, has confessed to treading water at times in the intervening years so this was a worthy triumph for the guy ranked No. 863 in the world and now heading to cutthroat qualifying school in Japan next week with a burst of confidence.
"This game, you just never know what is going to happen. I felt like I was on top of my game seven years ago, top 50 in the world," Sim, 33, said after his closing two-under-par 69.
"I know I'm still a little far away from that but to show you can still do it, to win, is emotional.
"I probably thought this day might not happen again ... now there is a lot to look forward to."
Sim (69-66-71-69) was five shots behind Harry Bateman before the Kiwi leader pulled his drive into the infamous ball-eating lake guarding the fifth fairway and suddenly got the bogey wobbles for his 74.
"The only time I had a look (at a leaderboard) I was five behind Harry so I just did my thing and never really thought I had a chance to win until the wedge in on the last."
It was Sim's caddie Daniel Rich, the Brisbane Lions midfielder, who gave him the update he was among four players hovering around eight-under with six players left on course.
"So clutch ... Michael was awesome in that pressure," Rich said with a signed pin flag for his trophy room.
Goss flinched with a bogey from the bunker on the 17th but really undid himself as leader with a four-putt from 7m on the 14th. Kiwi-in-the-clubhouse Kieran Muir (66) happily settled for joint second with him while Bateman bogeyed from the trees on the last.
Sim will be talking baby showers soon enough with wife Simone expecting their first child in February but on Sunday he was happily drenched in a champagne shower.
Simone made a good play herself, leaving her sister's birthday party at Mt Tambourine just in time to watch her husband's final, winning hole.
The turning point for Sim really came on the tough 13th when a five iron zeroed in over the bunkers to just 60cm from the cup for birdie.
On the final green, Sim put himself in that zone he once did as a kid in Western Australia.
"It was like you do as a kid 'This putt to win the Masters or the Australian Open' because that's kinda what I said to myself."
Redcliffe's Queensland amateur champion Doug Klein had six birdies in his fine 67 to finish as top amateur in joint seventh.
The challenges came in spurts. Victorian James Marchesani had seven birdies in his 69 but just too many backward steps while big-hitting Queenslander Tim Hart started with three birdies before falling away with a 74.
9-under: Michael Sim (69-66-71-69)
8-under: Ollie Goss (69-70-66-71), Kieran Muir (75-66-69-66)
7-under: Damien Jordan (70-70-70-67), Harry Bateman (67-70-66-74)
6-under: Brett Rankin (71-70-71-66)
5-under: Josh Younger (75-70-68-66), Doug Klein (am) (74-67-71-67), James Marchesani (72-69-69-69)