Date: February 08, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes & Martin Blake

Lovers’ fairytale Vic Open twin triumph

Not even a Hollywood script writer in the Swinging ‘60s could have dreamt this up.

Richard Green and Marianne Skarpnord were engaged in Dubai last week, picked up the keys to their new course-side house on Monday and tonight are Victorian Open champions.

Green, 43, made a birdie on the second playoff hole at 13th Beach to beat South Australian Nick Cullen to cap a week in which he also made a televised albatross that has gone viral around the world.

And to cap it all off, they are both individually backed by tournament sponsor Oates – just to make the week that little more improbable, if that was remotely possible.

Green, who has won three times on the Euorpean Tour, emotionally told how the trophy was something he’d sought since he was a junior playing pennant around Melbourne.

“It’s high on my list of achievements because it’s often harder to win events you really set yourself to win. The Australian Masters was on my list and I got that in 2004 and this one since back in VGA days, so it’s great to finally be here.

“I really think it’s fascinating we’ve both done it on the same day,” Green said of his fiancee’s three-stroke triumph.

“I can’t say I’ve had a week like that before – especially with Marianne winning and being around and experiencing her thoughts and feelings at night.

“Talking to each other about it has been very different. Most of the time I’m away on my own and dealing with the pressures of golf – it’s awesome to share it with her.”

Green, who spoke glowingly of his battle with Ben Eccles and Ryan Ruffles who shared low amateur honours in tying for third, recalled how he’d had the same fate in losing to veteran Ian Stanley in 1992 before he turned professional.

“I was close then and threatened, but the tough pro came through and beat me. I suppose it’s not unlike that for these guys,” he said.

“Maybe it’s retribution, I don’t like to think I’m an old stalwart, but maybe I am these days. It’s good for the young guys to look up and aspire to do this one day as well.

“It’s never easy winning, it’s hard work and it feels amazing now I’ve done it.”

And it was true. The win didn’t come easily with more than a dozen contenders until late into a frenetic final round.

And just when he had it under control, Green made a three-putt bogey on the 17th to bring the field back into the hunt before a closing birdie.

Cullen almost holed out for eagle to pinch victory in the final group, but made sure of his birdie to set up extra time for the second consecutive year on the Beach Course.

Neither flushed drives on either playoff hole, but when Cullen went long with his third on the 74th hole, Green seized his chance.

"I was very nervous over the putt, you've just got to take aim and do the best you can,” he said.

“I felt pretty comfortable with it and sure enough it came off spot on the line and straight in the middle.

"It's going to be a very interesting night. We've got lots of friends down here and … we’re heading to the BeachHouse (restaurant) in Barwon Heads.”

Green gave Skarpnord huge praise for her ability to come back from breaking her wrist in early November in an ice-skating accident.

"I've seen an immense amount of work put in by her and I'm very proud of her, to be standing up here after winning the tournament after what we've both been through."

Skarpnord was almost speechless when asked to reflect on the moment.

“It’s almost a dream come true – a fairytale,” she beamed.

“We got engaged last week, we moved into the house on Monday, Greeny had an albatross on Wednesday and here we are today both winners.

“I don’t think I can ask for anything more. I can’t believe it – we’ll have to have a good night tonight and wake up tomorrow before I realise what has happened today.”

Skarpnord closed out the women's tournament the way a two-time European tour winner should do after a sustained challenge launched by 18-year-old Melbourne rookie professional Su Oh.

The Norwegian began the day three shots clear but Oh made early birdies on the second, the fifth and the seventh, while Skarpnord dropped a shot at the par-four fourth hole when she blocked her tee shot into a bush and had to take a penalty drop.

A spectator had found the ball and removed it from the tree, unaware that it belonged to the tournament leader. Fortunately a volunteer saw the man remove the ball, and he promptly returned it to its original position. In any event, it was unplayable.

Skarpnord kept lipping out with makeable birdie putts, and by the time she chunked her approach from a bare lie in the rough on the par-four 13th hole, leading to a bogey, she had been joined in the lead by Oh at 12-under par.

They remained tied for the lead into the home stretch. Oh missed a birdie putt from 1.5 metres at the par-four 15th hole that would have given her the outright lead, but at the 16th, the Australian hit her approach long and could not get up and down from behind the green, leaving Skarpnord in the lead again.

At the 17th, both the leaders took bogey after missing the green right, so Skarpnord went to the 18th tee with a one-shot lead over Oh and a two-shot buffer from England's Holly Clyburn, also playing in the final group.

But Oh's tee shot rode on the fierce left-to-right wind at 18 and nestled behind two trees down the right, blocking her path to the green, while Skarpnord drilled it down the fairway. Oh tried to cut a three wood shot under the trees and up toward the green, but pulled it left into the huge hazard down the left of the 18th, effectively ending her challenge.

Dozens of people, including the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, spent five minutes searching for her golf ball on the off chance that she could play it from the heavily grassed area. But they could not manage a miracle. "I'm really glad that I went for it,'' said Oh, who had known she needed birdie to have any chance of winning.

Meanwhile the Norwegian smashed a fairway metal shot up to the fringe of the green, finding her mojo when she needed it. She chipped up inside two metres and holed the birdie putt to win by three shots.

Oh, who bogeyed the last three holes, and Clyburn tied for second.

"To be honest, I got a bit nervous out there because Su was playing really, really well,'' said Skarpnord. "She's a great player and fantastic to play with, and I'm sure it's not going to take very long before she's going to win the trophies. She's going to be really good. Then she kind of gave it to me on the last when she hit it in the hazard.''

Skarpnord had to wait an hour to see Green win before joining him for a hug on the 18th green.

"I don't know if we're even going to make the flight at three o'clock tomorrow. I'm not sure!''