Harrison Crowe (Courtesy of Australian Golf)
has won the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open at Concord by a shot, just the sixth amateur in tournament history to lift the Kel Nagle Cup.
The 20-year-old from Bexley in inner-western Sydney kept his nerve through a tense final round to shoot a four-under par 67 and hold on by the slimmest margin from Newcastle’s Blake Windred (64 today).
Jordan Zunic and Jarryd Felton were tied third at 16-under par.
After an emotional Windred rode the home crowd cheers to post 17-under overall to take the clubhouse lead, Crowe, joint-leader through two rounds of a tournament abbreviated to 54 holes, had a task that was at once simple and difficult. He had to make par at the last two holes to secure his biggest win.
A tugged drive into the treeline down the left of the par-four 18th did not help his nerves, but he slapped his second shot up to the back, left edge of the green, and almost holed the 10-metre birdie putt, then tapped in for par to post 18-under and double fist-pumped to celebrate. “I don’t know if I kept the putter still,” he said later. “I just said ‘hit it hard’. It’s not quick up there, and try and hole it’.’’
He can’t accept the first prize cheque of $72,000 which will go to Windred, but Crowe now has a big decision to make because he is eligible to join the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia immediately if he wants to turn professional.
“I can’t describe it,” he said. “So good. I really actually settled down after about six. I felt all right after the first tee shot and really knuckled down. Then to turn five-under (par), but not getting up-and-down on 11 kind of creeped me a little bit, and 17 and 18 I’ve never been so nervous in my life.”
Crowe appeared unfazed by the pressure early when he started with three straight birdies. Turning in 30 after a three-metre birdie at the ninth, he was four ahead.
But there was much drama to come. At the 10th, he went through the green and made his first and only bogey of the tournament. At 11 and 15, he lipped out for birdie. Ultimately, he would make eight consecutive pars to close it out when the putter finally went cold, and at the 18th, he enjoyed a real piece of luck; his tee shot could easily have bounded into the trees down the left, but stopped just short leaving him a shot with a full backswing.
“It was a lucky break to have a shot,” he said. “I feel like I deserved it after the horseshoe at 15. A little bit of luck, when it goes your way, you take it.”
Crowe has had a prolific summer, winning the NSW Amateur, the Victorian Amateur and the Australian Master of the Amateurs. He becomes just the second man ever to hold the NSW Amateur and NSW Open titles concurrently, along with Jim Ferrier (1937-38), an all-time great of Australian golf. He is just the fifth man to have won both NSW Amateur and NSW Open crowns, behind Ben Eccles, Peter O’Malley, Tony Gresham and Ferrier.
The sunshine came and the crowds arrived at Concord today with the tournament reaching its conclusion after Saturday was wiped out by bad weather and pools of water on the course.
Daniel Gale shot a final-round 62 to leap into a tie for 14th, at one stage threatening to break 60 when he was 10-under par through 13 holes.
But it was Crowe’s day. On the final green, he was embraced by his parents Tony and Shaunagh, who’ve followed his career since he was hooning around their backyard in a golf kart as a toddler.
He may be days away from turning professional. Previously, he’s said that he is in no hurry, but now the opportunity is right there.
“It’s something to think about,” he said. “I don’t want to try and dwell on it too much now. I think I’m going enjoy my night. I’ve got an early flight tomorrow which I won’t be crash hot for out to Adelaide. It’s something to talk over with the parents, the coaches, team, and go from there.”