Years ago when the Victorian Open’s model was to bring out famous players including Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange and Lee Trevino it became something of a failed crusade to get one of them over the line.
Miller lost to Geoff Parslow, the local club pro at Yarra Yarra. Palmer was beaten by a four-time champion Guy Wolstenholme and Rodger Davis knocked over Player at Kingston Heath.
Whether they won of lost didn’t really matter. Their presence was enough to attract the attention of the press and the public and give the tournament prestige. Having Greg Norman play every year didn’t hurt either.
At 13th Beach this week Canadian star Brooke Henderson called in sick on Monday. Karrie Webb played a brilliant round on Friday then followed it was a depressing 82 to miss the final day cut. Minjee Lee was one shot too many to see any Sunday action.
Geoff Ogilvy, like Webb a US Open champion, made the cut but fumbled his way to a final day 76 and in the end beat only one player home.
It was his first tournament in months and over the next few weeks he ventures to Perth and New Zealand in an attempt to resurrect his drive to be one of the better players in the game.
None of this effected the crowds who turned up to walk the fairways (some delightfully with perfectly behaved dogs) and enjoy two tight contests.
The man from Aberdeen, David Law hit a perfect hybrid club into the final green and holed from ten feet for an eagle then from the quiet of the scorers tent heard word filtering back of leader Wade Ormsby making a complete mess of the difficult par three 17th.
Missing a green with a long club isn’t a crime but taking two chips was one of the highest order and a birdie at the last was never going to make up for the double bogey at the 17th.
A five-year veteran of the secondary tour in Europe, Law finds his tour life turned somewhat upside but in a good way. If you asked him if he’d rather the money or the exemption, likely he’d take the security of knowing where he is playing each week. Either way winning is a career-changing experience.
The Frenchwoman Celine Boutier won the women’s open thanks to two brilliant putts on the 15th and 17th greens. Sarah Kemp was in the clubhouse on 283 before the leaders teed off and at one point it looked as though it may have been good enough for at least a playoff.
Su Oh, the local hope, made a miserable fist of the first hour of play and dropped four shots by the time she got to the 5th tee.
She whittled the gap to two by time they came to the almost drivable 15th hole and Boutier pitched clumsily twenty-five feet past. Oh, now with a chance, hit the hole with a perfect eagle chip and seemed certain to go to the 16th tee trailing by one. Instead Boutier hit a terrific putt to hold off the Victorian.
The 17th is brutal hole and Oh hit a good-looking three iron but it slid down the slope all the way to the front of the green. Boutier missed the green chipped to ten feet and holed. Oh missed from eight feet for a three and the last hole was nothing but a formality for the leader. Oh in the end made a birdie to tie second with Kemp and England’s Charlotte Thomas.
This isn’t an event reliant on a couple of big-name stars for its legitimacy.
Word will spread how much fun the players have, how good the courses are and that it is much more than the regular week to week diet of tour golf. The Europeans who ventured to Saudi Arabia the previous week surely couldn’t have found two more contrasting experiences.
Some have suggested the women’s course is too long and should be set up so the women are hitting the same clubs to the greens as the men. Given they are separate events, I’m not sure why that is necessary. The real problem is not having the women hitting the same clubs as the men, but rather the men hitting the same clubs as the women.