JAMES Nitties scored the biggest pay day of his career but the Charlestown professional was left to rue a missed opportunity to secure a European Tour Card.
Nitties pocketed $188,880 after finishing runner-up to Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnra in the final of the $1.75 million World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup Country Club on Sunday.
The tournament, which comprised of three rounds of stroke and knockout 6-hole match-play, is a European co-sanction event, with the winner earning playing rights.
A forrmer member of the US PGA tour, Nitties has been in the wilderness, playing the Australasian Tour and mini-tours, since losing his playing status on the second-tier web.com tour in America in 2015
“Yeah, it’s a sad way to go down considering another win might have got me some playing rights somewhere in the world because I currently have no status, but it was a great week,” Nitties said. “Considering I was a four-footer away from losing the first match, it was pretty positive stuff getting to the finals.”
Aphibarnrat, 28, claimed his fourth European Tour title with a two and one win, requiring just five holes as he nailed an eagle and then a birdie to seal victory.
Nitties made a bright start to the decider with a birdie at the first, but wayward drives at the second and third holes opened the door for the world No.53.
He wasted his first chance but not the second. The Thai took the lead on the fourth hole, the 302m par-4 14th, with an eagle. He then clinched victory with a birdie on the fifth hole - the course's 135m par-3 12th.
“Yeah, I wasn’t hitting my driver well off the tee,” Nitties lamented. “I managed to Houdini my way out of a couple of lies and get a couple of birdies, but he was too good. He went eagle and birdie down the stretch, which pretty much got it done for him.”
Aphibarnrat was a late addition to the tournament and was the last man to qualify for Sunday's 24-man final field – surviving a four-hole shoot out.
Nitties finished tied for 11th after the 54 holes of stroke play. He took an extra hole to beat Nick Cullen in the first round of matchplay before accounting for Dimi Papadatos one-up.
In an all-hunter quarter-final against Toronto’s Cal O’Reilly, Nitties drained two long putts to win one-up and also had the flat stick firing in the semi-final win over Sam Horsfield (two and one).
O’Reilly finished a tie for fifth and earned $56,270 – the biggest cheque of his fledgling career.
After scraping into the top 24, Aphibarnrat beat Ben Eccles, Yusaku Miyazato, Andrea Pavan and Lucas Herbert, the last in a six-hole shootout.
“Yeah, it’s just been an awesome week,” Aphibarnrat said. “I don’t know how to explain, but I’m so happy. Last few months I’ve been getting really close and finally I’ve done it. James is playing so good but he’s just unlucky at the end. I believe if he keeps doing what he does, one day he’ll be joining our tour for sure.”