VICTORIA, Australia (January 22, 2017) -- It took 36
epic holes, but when the moment presented itself,
Matias Sanchez grabbed his spot in history with two
incredibly calm hands.
Sanchez, 18, played inspired golf on Sunday in one of
greatest finals in living memory to beat Min Woo Lee 1
up to win the Australian Amateur Championship,
presented by Swinging Skirts.
The Royal Melbourne member peeled off 11 birdies in
the 36-hole final that will long be remembered for its
incredible shot-making by both players on a Yarra Yarra
course set up to challenge.
Remarkably, 16 holes were either won by, or halved in,
birdies throughout a match of incredible ebbs and flows,
none more so than the final three holes each won by
Sanchez after Lee looked home at 2 up on the 34th tee.
“I can’t believe this and I can’t believe that finish,”
“I knew I had to something special because Min was
playing some great golf and had a lot of momentum
there on the 16th and for that shot to drop, it just gave
me a huge lift.
“From there, I just got on a roll, I think. My drive up the
last got lucky, but when I had that last putt to win (2m
up the hill), I could see the line and hit a good putt and
then the feeling was just amazing.”
When Sanchez refers to “that shot” on the 16th, he’ll
sleep with a smile for months recalling the putter he hit
from 10m behind the green, bumping it up the hill to a
tough pin position and watching it fall for birdie on its
With Lee sitting 2.5m away for a potential par, it was a
huge momentum swing at the critical time.
A wayward tee shot up the 17th cost Lee a bogey, then
the pair’s fortunes took separate paths again off the
Sanchez’s drive hit the wall of the left bunker, but
somehow popped up and forward to allow him a shot
from rough that he managed to advance to the jaws of
Lee, however, watched in disbelief as his drive ran into
a bunker 290m up on the right, then his approach
landed hard on the back of the green and scurried up
the hill to a position from which bogey was his ultimate
Sanchez calmly chipped to 2m to heap pressure on his
good Perth mate, then rolled in the title clinching putt to
the roars of the hordes of Royal Melbourne fans who’d
come to watch.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” Sanchez said.
“I had to focus on the putt and not what it would mean
and I managed to do it really well and when I hit it I
knew it was good.
“What a feeling.”
Lee, also 18, was typically gracious in defeat and could
hold his head high for entertaining the huge gallery with
some audacious golf, including a shot his caddie – Jack
Deftereos-Brennan, a player here earlier in the week –
described in awe as “the greatest he’d ever seen."
Lee was seemingly hemmed in by trees up the right of
the 14th fairway and was urged by his bagman to play
for safety towards the 15th tee.
The Royal Fremantle member had other ideas, though,
and carved a low running slice that absolutely thrilled
the crowd and gave them a great taste of what lies
ahead in his career.
“Hats off to Matias, he played some great golf,
especially in those last few holes,” Lee said.
“You never like to lose, but he played some incredible
The Melburnian began like a man who had a flight to
catch in the morning round.
He opened with three straight birdies to bolt to a 3 up
lead and it wasn’t until the 32nd hole that Lee took his
first lead for the day.
The reigning U.S. Boys’ Amateur champion turned his
miraculous escape shot into a par as Sanchez took
bogey from the front right trap and was finally 1 up
after seven hours of intense chasing.
He immediately doubled that lead when Sanchez
couldn’t make a sand save on the imposing 15th and
the title looked headed west again.
But Sanchez dug deep when it mattered most and
history will record him as a more than worthy
Unofficially, he took 11 birdies and just six bogeys
through his 36-hole ride to glory.
Officially, tonight at least, he’s the best amateur player
in the land.