South Australia and New South Wales are the joint boys’ Junior Interstate Series champions after a pulsating final round at Ulverstone, Tasmania.
Only a series of clutch one-putts from the young New South Welshmen prevented the SA boys from winning alone after a day in which three states thought the trophy was going their way.
Queensland began with the ball in its court, knowing it needed only to halve its match against Victoria to seal overall victory.
But when the defending champion Vics stormed home for a 3-2 win, the drama went up another notch.
South Australia and New South Wales had already fought to a tense halved match on Tuesday, but that was nothing compared to what unfolded after the SA boys romped past Northern Territory 5-0 to ensure that calculators were needed.
The Blues, playing against Western Australia, firstly needed to win, but to do so by a score of 4-1 would ensure the title alone.
A 3-2 NSW victory would mean SA won the title and a 3.5-1.5 result would provide joint winners for the first time since 2000 when NSW and WA shared the honours in Brisbane.
When Joshua Gadd (2&1) and Corey Jones (7&6), both of whom were unbeaten all week, triumphed in the No.5 and No.4 matches respectively, NSW looked a solid chance for solo glory.
Mandurah’s Cooper Geddes then threw a spanner in the NSW works when he won the No.3 match 1-up over Jordan Garner, with captain Jason Hong 1-down in the No.2 match to Fred Lee with two holes to play.
Hong, based at Concord, went the aggressive route off the 2nd tee (his 17th hole) but only pitched to 4m with Lee – also unbeaten through the week – half that distance from the cup.
But Hong was equal to the pressure and rolled in his birdie putt dead centre before Lee missed and their match was squared.
After driving into the trees and being forced to pitch out on the third (his last hole), Hong calmly played his third to 2m and rolled in another perfect putt, this time for par to halve the match and leave No.1 Jay McKenzie needing a full point to share the title.
“It was like a dream come true. That’s definitely up there with the greatest moments I’ve had in golf,” Hong said.
“Probably the putt on the last hole, you can’t get much more pressure than that.”
But the drama was far from finished.
West Australian ace Ben Ferguson, trailing 1-down on the last tee, turned up the heat with an approach to 3m, then must have fancied his chances when McKenzie’s approach rolled to 6m right of the pin, but on the fringe.
Remarkably, though, the Ballina gun sent his team into raptures with a curling, downhill putt that dropped for birdie, meaning he couldn’t be beaten and the title was shared.
“Everything fell our way, the putts dropped when they needed to,” Hong said.
“The putt Jay made up the last I just can’t describe – I just wanted to run towards him, give him a big hug.
“We were just in awe , everything fell out way perfectly and it was due to happen, we haven’t won for quite a while, so it was good for Golf New South Wales,” said Hong, who also paid tribute to his South Australian rivals.
It’s South Australia’s third win in 11 years and NSW’s fifth in that time span.
It also gives the Blues a great double after the girls’ team triumphed at Devonport on Tuesday.
NSW national coach Dean Kinney said the tale had been almost from a storybook.
“What an unbelievable week,” Kinney beamed.
“You can believe in what you like about god and universe, but it was meant to happen for everything to be so close, it was quite incredible.”
“The finish was amazing – for the captain to step up and hit a big driver up the tight second last hole when he’s one down and make birdie was brilliant.
“We’d asked Jason to not be as conservative earlier in the week, but what a time to do it – he just stepped up at the crucial time and he’s done it.
“And then that last putt (by McKenzie) … just incredible.”
South Australian manager Christian Puccini was equally gobsmacked by the turn of events, but was exceedingly proud of his team that fought back after an opening 4-1 hammering by Queensland to play the rest of the week unbeaten.
“Last year we started with two losses and didn’t lose again after day one, so this year we were keen to get a good start but came up short again,” he said.
“But the guys regrouped and did really well after that – they never got down about their chances … and I’ve never seen a tighter group.
“Watching Lachie Barker and Jackson Kalz go so well in the (Australian Junior Championship) last week, it really gave the boys confidence they could mix it and that we had the players who could do the job.
“We had some solid players, but anyone who was down one day played well the next day, so we managed to have three or four in form each match and the guys all picked up straight after they had a bad one.
Barker, Ben Layton and Liam Georgiadis will all play for SA’s senior team in next month’s Interstate Championship in Brisbane, but Puccini also praised Michael Coleman whom he said “dominated” in his three matches after a flat result in last week’s individual championship.
“Him and all the guys just really did what needed to be done – it was a great team effort,” Puccini said.
“It’s a fantastic result for the state – an awesome achievement for these fellas, they’ve been training hard and they’re a top bunch of kids. To see them winning is a proud moment.”
Earlier, Queensland had the fate of the trophy in its hand and looked good when Chris Jimenez and Lochie Coleborn won matches at No.5 and No.4, respectively, to ensure that pair played the tournament undefeated, too.
But in what turned out to be the pivotal match, Victorian Toby Walker steadied after giving up an early lead at No.3 and eventually beat Louis Dobbelaar 3&2 to set the reigning champs away.
Matias Sanchez and Cameron John then completed the job for Victoria with 3&2 and 4&3 wins at No.2 and No.1 respectively, leaving Queensland an agonising half-point short of victory.
Victoria finished a creditable fourth, equal on points with Queensland but behind on matches won, while WA finished fifth with a 4-3 record.
The ACT downed Tasmania 3-2 in a tight encounter to finish sixth ahead of the hosts, while the Northern Territory was valiant throughout the week, but couldn’t quite get over the line.