And then, unexpectedly, there were three.
South Australia blew New South Wales’ Interstate Boys’ Championship dreams sky high today with a stunning upset at the Links Lady Bay Golf Club.
The 3.5-1.5 victory left Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland as the only title hopes heading into tomorrow’s final round.
What many thought would be a safe passage for the “big four” into a last-day showdown simply didn’t pan out as the home team outplayed the Blues — winners of four of the past eight Interstate Boy’s titles — to end their chances.
And it came in the most dramatic fashion with Kooyonga’s Joe Hodgson having a hole-in-one on the 16th hole to spark a stunning winning run.
Hodgson, whose parents emigrated from the UK when he was a toddler, hit an 8-iron and although blinded by the steep uphill slope, knew his ball had gone in when the crowd – including his father Matt – gathered around the green erupted.
SA manager Christian Puccini said players on the 14th tee, approximately 800m away, heard the mighty roar that spurred his teammates on to a closing rally.
Hodgson’s ace, his third, still left him one down with three to play. The 16-year-old halved the 16th with Joseph Trinder, then remarkably chipped in for par on the 17th to square their match.
He then completed a remarkable finish by holing a 3m birdie putt on the par-5 18th to win 1-up.
Hodgson’s win came after the first match was halved, then was closely followed by outstanding victories to Jack Thompson and Lachlan Barker over highly rated opponents Daniel Kolar and Blake Windred, respectively.
Thompson’s round included a near albatross on the par-5 seventh hole, with Kolar conceding the eagle from within centimetres of the hole.
Billy Cawthorne, whose result was now moot, went 1-up when he eagled the 16th in the No.1 match, but Jason Hong won the last two holes to grab the only full point for NSW.
Puccini said Barker had been a great case study for the SA team that lost its opening matches of the week against Victoria and Queensland, but had since gone unbeaten in racking up 3.5 points, including a halved match with WA.
“Lachlan started the week at No.1 and took a couple of big losses, but he stuck at it and with coach Adrian Wickstein on his bag, he’s improved in leaps and bounds through the week,” Puccini said.
“That’s his fourth individual win in a row after two losses and that sort of sums up the team’s week.
“We were a little disappointed with the first two rounds, but improved a lot against Queensland and realised we could compete against those `bigger’ states.
“Then when we halved our match with WA on Tuesday, a couple of guys have really stepped up to the plate and now know they can compete with anyone.
“They’re playing some good golf now, especially Billy who went up to No.1 and has been great all week.”
“To beat a `bigger’ state is a great achievement and we’ve got a couple of 16-year-olds who now know they’ve got what it takes next year.”
Puccini joked that Queensland and Victoria rushed up to thank the SA boys after their victory.
New South Wales had led on matches won before the sixth round, but can no longer win with two rivals ahead of them to clash on Thursday.
Should Victoria beat Queensland, the Big V – which has a 3-match lead on WA on countback — will complete a clean sweep after the Girls’ title was secured yesterday.
Should the Vics lose, or halve their match with Queensland and WA beat New South Wales, the Sandgropers will win.
And while it’s rare that any Queensland team will barrack for New South Wales, if the Blues can beat WA and Queensland topple Victoria, the Maroons will salute.
In today’s other afternoon matches, Victoria hammered the Northern Territory 5-0, WA beat Tasmania 4-1 and Queensland overpowered the ACT 4-1.
Meanwhile, the Girls’ Interstate Championship placings were finalised with pre-tournament fancy Queensland winning second place bragging rights this morning with a 3.5-1.5 win over New South Wales.
The Queenslanders were relegated to the battle for second after Victoria stunned them yesterday to seal the championship and break the favourites’ four-year hold on the title at Fleurieu Golf Course.
But with three individual halves and wins to Kirsty Hodgkins and Robyn Choi in the No.3 and No.5 matches, the Queenslanders hit back well against NSW.
In the last match of the tournament, Western Australia ensured it finished fourth with a comfortable 4-1 win over host South Australia.