A place in Sunday’s six-hole match play round – the winner booking a European Tour ticket – had loomed for Jordan Zunic.
Nailing a birdie on his fifth hole on Saturday, then a birdie two holes later, the Illawarra professional was suddenly tied for 11th at six-under at the Perth Super 6 tournament.
But he would ultimately fall one shot short of the playoff to be in the top 24.
Under the tournament’s unique format, the regular 36-hole cut is followed by a second cull, with a playoff used late on Saturday to determine who would take their place in the top 24, who would then compete in a six-hole matchplay format to determine the winner.
Zunic made consecutive bogies on his second nine, then birdied the par five seventh, his 16th hole, meaning he ultimately needed another birdie on the final two holes. He fell agonisingly short at -5, tied for 26th.
Speaking to the Mercury last week, Zunic confirmed he had his sights set on qualifying for the European Tour this year, now poised to be through competing on the second-tier Challenge Tour.
“That's where I want to be (on the European Tour), I've been over there a couple of years now and I've got understanding what it's going to take,” he said.
He’s recruited a caddy with more than 20 years experience in Europe, Adam Drummond, who has been on the bag for top talent like Paul Casey and Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
Zunic and rising Illawarra star Travis Smyth will set their sights on the $1.2 million New Zealand Open, starting on February 28.
The NZ Open is a co-sanctioned Australian PGA and Asian Tour tournament.
The Arrowtown course is a happy hunting ground for Zunic, who claimed the NZ Open in 2015 in just his fourth professional start.
However, Smyth will move to the Queensland PGA Championships this week, where Lincoln Tighe will make his comeback from a hand injury which kept him out of the game for almost 12 months.
The big-hitting Tighe was squeezed out of the Victorian Open field a fortnight ago.