It was the textbook definition of bittersweet.
Perth’s Curtis Luck shot a round for the ages, overcomming a seven shot deficit to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, played at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, Korea.
Of the 118 man field that started the event, Luck as the 2016 US Amateur champion was the only golfer not competing for a start at the US Masters, and the West Aussie's cool head prevailed in an impressive bogey free 5-under 67 in blustery conditions.
Luck’s main rivals, Brett Coletta and Cameron Davis, saw their dreams of playing Augusta National fade with rounds of 75 and 77 respectively. The Victorian Coletta finished as the disconsolate runner-up, a shot behind Luck, while Davis of NSW placed fourth on 7-under, five back of Luck and two behind third placed New Zealander Luke Toomey.
The win means Luck adds his Asia-Pacific Amateur win to his US Amateur title and runner-up finish in the individual component of the Eisenhower Trophy – an incredible record of two wins and a runner-up from the three Elite ranked amateur events he has played in 2016.
“I’ve had an amazing year and this has topped it off, it’s pretty sweet,” Luck said in the press conference.
“It’s an amazing event to play and to get my name on that trophy is awesome. I’ve got some pretty amazing professional events coming up, and these past few months have given me a lot of confidence and a good understanding of where I’m at.
“I have performed pretty well this year in these big events, so put it this way, I’m very excited to be able to play here and test my ability.”
Amazingly, after 71 holes and three approach shots, Luck and Coletta found themselves facing almost identical 16 foot birdie putts for birdie on the 18th green.
The result of these two putts decided the title, as Luck, playing in the second last group, rammed his home while Coletta’s effort to force a playoff fell heartbreaking left of the cup.
Luck’s win was set up by a trailblazing back nine, where the Cottesloe golfer reeled off four birdies over the last eight holes, including his impressive up and down from the left greenside bunker on 18 to set the clubhouse mark at 12-under.
“I thought that if I made birdie down the last hole it might be good enough to win,” Luck said.
“When I was walking from my second shot I saw that the leaderboard had updated and Brett had made a good birdie on 17, so it made my job really clear knowing that we were tied and knowing Brett had a good opportunity to make birdie down the last.
“I was pretty nervous over that bunker shot but I managed to flub it out and hole a good putt on the last, so it was pretty nerve wracking for me.”
That Luck was feeling the nerves with comparatively small stakes only highlights the competitive nature of the world’s No.2 ranked amateur, who adds another feather in his cap in his bid to make number 1.
“Out there my job was simple, I was purely trying to climb the leaderboard as much as I could, even if the result at the end of the day wasn’t as significant (for me),” Luck said.
“I was able to go after it on that final nine holes and fortunately I took some advantage of some good shots and I think having that ticket to Augusta already was a bit of a relief for me.”
Luck felt for Coletta who came so close, but missed out on a dream Masters start — and Luck clearly empathised with his Australian teammate.
In 2015, Luck lead the WA Open by three shots on the back nine but fell away to finish runner-up, but from that heartbreak Luck emerged the following year to win the professional event – a victory that kick-started Luck’s trailblazing run in amateur events this year.
“I did go through exactly what Brett’s going through at the moment,” Luck said of the 2015 WA Open.
“It was tough after a pretty heartbreaking loss and it took me a few months to get over. Fortunately you learn a lot more from your mistakes than you do from your rights, so I can say pretty confidently that Brett’s going to come back bigger and better over the next year, and I hope he does.”
“Brett’s a really close friend of mine, so I obviously understand about the opportunity of what he’s just missed out on, so I will say that I feel a little guilty and a little bad, but unfortunately that’s the spot we’re in, and I’m so competitive that I couldn’t give up the chance to win an event like this, but I definitely feel for Brett.”