OUTSTANDING Mount Gambier Golf Club member Darren Bilney claimed his fourth South East Open Championship in testing conditions at the Attamurra layout on Sunday.
The 43-year-old needed two play-off holes to beat long-time rival Anthony Williams after the pair had been tied at five-over par at the end of 36 holes.
Williams, chasing his ninth win in the prestigious tournament, was unable to get up-and-down from just off the ninth green, while Bilnery recovered from a wayward drive to post a par four and complete the successful defence of his title.
Playing in the same group, Williams held a two-shot lead after the first 18 holes thanks to a four-over par 76.
Bilney and Joel Mann were the next best with 78s, while Hayden Cook and Nick Black were one shot further back.
Bilney’s day was off to a disastrous start, dropping four shots on the opening five holes but a superb tee shot to inside two feet on the par 3 sixth hole gave him his first birdie.
Another on the par 4 ninth saw him make the turn on 38, one behind Williams.
The pair struggled on the back nine, Williams shooting 39 and Bilney coming in with 40 which was not helped by a double bogey on the par 4 14th hole.
The weather cleared for the start of their second 18 holes and it was Bilney who took advantage.
He posted a superb three-under par 33 on the front nine thanks to birdies on the first, fourth and seventh holes.
Having started his second round with a two-shot lead, Williams found himself trailing by three after 27 holes, posting 38 on the front nine after bogeys on the second and third.
Bilney’s lead fluctuated between two and three shots on the final nine holes before the defining moment came on the par 5 15th.
After spraying his drive onto the adjoining 13th fairway, he lost his ball after hitting a tree trying to hit up to the 15th green.
With Williams needing only a tap-in for birdie, Bilney had to play his fourth shot from 190m out and on the wrong fairway.
But he produced a miraculous four-iron to 12 feet and rolled in the putt for par, limiting the damage to a single stroke.
After they both made pars on the 16th and 17th, Bilney held a one-shot lead on the 18th tee, but elected to play safe down the middle with an iron to about 120m from the back flag position.
Williams on the other hand hit driver to about 40m from the front of the green, pitched to about five feet and rolled in a tricky downhill putt for birdie, squaring the score after Bilney could only manage a par.
With the nearest contender eight shots adrift, the pair headed to the first hole to start the play-off.
They both took par fives before the contest was settled on the second play-off hole.
While Williams said he was “reasonably happy” with the way he played considering the tough conditions, Bilney pointed to his first nine holes on the second round as the difference.
“My start on the first round was shocking, but I played really good on the first nine the second time around,” he said.
“I really struggled with my putter … would have missed five puts from inside two feet, although I did make a few long ones.”
Mann ended up in third place after shooting 78/79, just ahead of Kevin Cook and Andrew Stark who finished on 14-over.
Meanwhile the winner of the best net competition on the day was 14-handicapper Tony Steen who finished one over his handicap after shooting rounds of net 71 and 74.
That was one ahead of Cook who was four over his handicap of six on his first 18 holes, but followed that with an excellent 76 off the stick the second time around to finish two over, edging out youngster Blake Schroder on a count-back.