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Pearce closes with a double, but still wins by two

1/19/2003

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- New Zealand's Mahal Pearce won the
New Zealand Open on Sunday for his first pro title, shooting a
2-under 70 for a two-stroke victory over Australia's Brett Rumford.

Pearce, who began the round two strokes behind Australia's Chris
Downes, took a four-shot lead to the final hole, but dropped two
strokes with a double-bogey 6. He finished at 10-under 278 on the
Auckland Golf Club's Middlemore course.

Rumford closed with a 68.

Downes (75) and Australia's Nathan Green (67) tied for third,
three strokes back at 7-under.

American Darrell Kestner shot a 73 to tie for fifth at 5-under
with New Zealand's Eddie Lee (69) and Australians Scott Gardiner
(70) and Wade Ormsby (71).

The 49-year-old Kestner, who failed to qualify for the Champions
Tour in November, is the head professional at Deepdale Golf Club in
Manhasset, N.Y.

American Michael Pearson (73) was another stroke back in a group
that included New Zealand star Michael Campbell (75) and
Australia's Wayne Grady (74).