Photo courtesy of Golf NSW
On a day when the weather was mostly kind, the final round of the Avondale Amateur ended up a thriller in the men’s division, while on the women’s side, a penultimate hole faux pas almost brought it all undone for the eventual winner.
Jayden Ford, Jaspers Stubbs, and Andrew Richards were inseparable at the end of 72 holes, and it took a three-way three-hole playoff to decide the champion.
After starting the day with a two-shot buffer, things looked to be rolling along nicely for the 18-year-old Kiwi; birdies on the 3rd and 7th saw him stretch his lead to three, but an untidy double bogey on the par-five 9th brought all his good work undone.
Richards, playing alongside Ford, was still in touch, and when he birdied the ninth, the three-shot swing meant it was all tied at the top.
Stubbs, meanwhile, playing in the group in front, was also making a move, and with birdies on the 7th, 9th, and 10th, the victorian found himself just a shot back as the back nine heated up.
With neither of the combatants giving an inch, the closing holes became a battle of attrition; The Kiwi visitor ground out par after par, while Richards, who dropped a shot on the short par-three 11th, grabbed it back with a handy birdie on the long par-four 14th.
Stubbs wasn’t out of it, and when he dropped back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th, his name was suddenly on top of the leaderboard alongside Ford and Richards at six-under.
The 17th and 18th holes were a tight affair, and with no player giving an inch, the trio finished tied after the regulation play.
The three-player-three-hole playoff was a tense affair, and after the trio all parred the first, Ford grabbed the initiative, hitting his 8-iron tee shot on the second to about 10 feet, and converted the birdie putt for a vital one-shot lead.
With just a hole left, the trio returned to the 18th, and Ford again proved to be the man of the moment, slotting the perfect drive to the right edge of the fairway, leaving himself just a solid mid-iron from victory.
Richards and Stubbs, needing something special, took on the hard-line up the right of the trees. Sadly both tee shots caught the timber, and from there, the result was all but academic.
With the pressure seemingly off, Ford slotted probably one of his best shots of the day, an eight iron to a just couple of meters, and with the result beyond doubt, calmly rolled his second birdie of the three-hole playoff into the middle for the biggest win of his career.
“It feels pretty good,” a beaming Ford said after the playoff. ” I kind of just hung on today, but really pleased with how I got it done in extra holes.”
“I was pretty nervous on the first (playoff hole), but after that second tee shot, it went away a bit.”
“When I hit that good drive up the last then the nice shot in, it felt good.”
The win, Ford’s first major amateur championship victory, guarantees the Kiwi a start in the Golf Challenge NSW Open in mid-March, as well as a pretty hefty improvement in his World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“I can’t quite fully put it into words, but it means a lot to me this win.”
“I’ve never played a tour event; it will be the first one."
However, between now and then is the not so simple matter of border closures and the continuing COVID crisis.
“I’m not too phased about getting home, I’ve got family here, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms. I’m keen to stick it out over here and play that now.”
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In the Avondale Bowl, Kirsten Rudgeley, Australia’s highest-ranked female amateur, had the tournament all but in her keeping midway through the final round until an unplayable lie threatened her comfortable margin on the short par-four 17th.
After starting the day with a two-shot buffer, Rudgeley was never really challenged and by the time she turned for home, The Western Australian gun had a handy four-shot lead.
Her nearest opponent, Queensland’s Justice Bosio, made things interesting with a couple of late birdies. When Rudgeley unexpectedly made a hash of the 17th and bogeyed the last, the result ended up looking a lot closer than it really was.
The win was a first for the impressive Rudgeley on Australia’s East Coast.
“I probably played the steadiest today that I did all week,” Rudgeley smiled. “The last two were holes not ideal, but I am happy with the way I played, and bring on next week.”
The win sets the Mt. Lawley member up for a run of events over the next few months culminating in an appearance at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April.
“I’ve got Latrobe this week, then Rosebud and a few other TPS events to follow.
“Hopefully I will get home for a couple of weeks, we’ll see what happens, then I’ll head over to Augusta.”
by David Tease, NSW Golf