VICTORIA, Australia (January 21, 2017) -- Two 18-year-old mates from opposite ends of the country and with contrasting styles will duel it out in Sunday’s final of the men’s Australian Amateur Championship, presented by Swinging Skirts.
Perth’s Min Woo Lee and Melbourne’s Matias Sanchez powered and finessed their ways, respectively, to a 36-hole Sunday shootout at Yarra Yarra Golf Club with great semifinal victories.
Lee, the second-seed after stroke play earlier in the week, was at times breath-taking in overpowering world No. 10 Robert Macintyre, of Scotland, 3&1 in a quality clash.
And a hole behind, Sanchez, the 20th seed, was several times on the mat against medallist Kevin Yuan, but relied on a steady nerve and brilliant hands to fight his way through on the 19th hole.
Twice Yuan seemingly had the match in his hands.
Sanchez, needing a par at worst, found himself short-sided in the back bunker on the 17th green after he had attacked looking for birdie while 1 down.
And only a brilliant up-and-down from the dual Royal Melbourne club champion kept the match alive.
Yuan then had two putts to ice the Victorian on the 18th green, but was far too bold on his downhill birdie try and then blocked his par attempt back up the hill to enable an extra hole.
Both players then blocked drives up the 19th, but it was Sanchez who escaped calmly and his 79m approach spun to 1.5m from where he coolly parred to eliminate the New South Welshman, whose own par try had agonizingly lipped out.
Conversely, Lee bludgeoned several amazing drives to positions from which Macintyre, for all his innovation and sublime putting, could simply not escape.
Lee was almost pin-high on the 283m par-four 5th – a drive that required almost all carry in a breeze that was “hurting” and off the left.
“That was some drive,” Macintyre confessed after he conceded Lee’s birdie.
And so it went.
Both started with hot putters when it mattered, but the necessity for Lee’s to stay warm was reduced by some laser approaches in the final holes, including to inside 1m for birdie on the 17th hole.
“It was pretty cool. Robert is a great player, so I’m really glad to have been able to make some shots when I needed to,” Lee said.
Sanchez, who’d earlier had a hole-in-one in his quarterfinal win over Shae Wools-Cobb, has been a steady improver all week and relished the chance to take on his friend in the finale.
“It’s a great feeling. We’re good mates and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.
The men’s 36-hole final starts Sunday at 8:40 a.m. AEDT at Yarra Yarra Golf Club.