Alizza Hetherington from Royal Melbourne and The Vintage’s Dylan Perry have won the respective 2016 Women’s and Men’s Victorian Amateur Championships after the 36-hole finals were both uniquely decided in sudden-death at the Woodlands Golf Club on Wednesday 14 December.
Under overcast skies but with a brisk south-westerly breeze making scoring challenging on the superbly presented Woodlands layout, 16-year-old Hetherington defeated Queensland teenager Rebecca Kay at the 37th in a quality display of ball striking, not to mention mental strength from both players across the duration of an enthralling day. Similarly in the men’s final, the talented 21-year-old Perry overcame slow starts in both rounds to outlast John Lyras from the St Michaels Golf Club in Sydney at the 41st.
The morning eighteen of the women’s final saw Hetherington seemingly take an unassailable lead in the 36-hole contest. Steady par golf over the opening nine saw the former Northern Territorian get to a two-hole lead which she extended over the back-nine. A birdie four at the 10th saw the lead increase to three-holes before Kay fought back to take the 12th after Hetherington found sand off the tee. Some indifferent play by Kay at the 14th and 15th saw the margin slip to four-holes before a further birdie at the par-five 18th let the current Victorian Junior Girls Champion go to lunch with a five-hole lead.
After a birdie at the fourth, Hetherington had increased her lead to six-holes and an early finish seemed likely. However, Kay showed wonderful resilience to stage a remarkable fightback. Indifferent play from Hetherington saw the Queensland teen win the third and fourth before a birdie at the sixth cut the deficit to three holes.
Further concessions by Hetherington at the seventh and the ninth and a Kay birdie at the par-five 10th levelled the playing field. A four at the short 11th was then enough for Kay to take a one hole lead. In the face of losing such a large lead, Hetherington steadied and after halving the 12th with a par, squared the match with a birdie at the par-four 13th. Kay then won the 14th with a par before Hetherington took the difficult par-five 15th playing back into the stiffening wind with the regulation figure.
The 16th was halved in fours as the talented young players had clearly risen to the occasion and were providing the growing gallery with a match to remember. Hetherington then seemed to have victory back in her grasp after holing a long downhill birdie putt at the 17th to regain the lead for the first time since the ninth. With the 18th also playing into the wind, a rock-solid par to Kay after Hetherington came up short of the green with her approach took the match back to square one and both players headed up to the par-four first again for a sudden death decider.
And what a deciding hole it turned out to be. After both players found the fairway from the tee, Kay was first to play and put her approach around seven metres from the hole. Having well and truly regrouped from losing a large lead, Hetherington then played the key shot with her 52-degree wedge, getting the approach inside Kay’s to two metres from the hole. After Kay’s birdie putt slid by, Hetherington stepped up and holed for birdie and the Championship. Having moved to Melbourne from Darwin a little over two years ago, Hetherington now holds the rare achievement of being both the current Victorian Women’s Amateur Champion as well as the Victorian Junior Girls Champion sharing this feat with some of the greats of Victorian women’s golf including Jane Lock, Louise Briers and tied youngest at 16 years of age with Misun Cho.
The men’s final saw Australia’s number two ranked male player in Dylan Perry get off to a slow start against fellow New South Welshman John Lyras. After the pair halved the opening hole in birdies, Lyras birdied again at the par-five second to gain a brief advantage before a dropped shot at the tricky third saw scores level. A further Lyras birdie at the short par-four fourth saw him lead again before Perry responded with a birdie at the sixth to square proceedings.
Some indifferent play followed from both players including Perry taking a double-bogey at the difficult long-par three eighth and a triple-bogey at the ninth to see Lyras hold a one-hole advantage after the opening nine. Perry levelled the final again after winning the 379-metre 14th with a par before gaining a mini-break in winning the 15th and 16th following Lyras struggling on both to get to a two-hole lead. Pars to both players over the closing holes saw Perry, who won this year’s Queensland Men’s Amateur title, maintain that advantage after the morning eighteen.
Solid ball striking, steady putting and par golf was order of the afternoon as Lyras reduced Perry’s advantage to just one-hole heading into the final nine. When the New South Wales State player (Perry) bogeyed the 10th, the final was level and after Lyras took the 12th and 13th with pars to go to two-up, Perry undoubtedly seemed in trouble. Like all good players when faced with adversity, he responded with the only birdie of the afternoon at the 379-metre par four 14th and then squared the contest with a five back into the breeze at the 15th.
Despite both players continuing with the impressive ball striking, neither could force the decisive sub-par blow on the greens in the swirling south-easterly. After both parred the 18th, Perry and Lyras also ventured into sudden death. As the tension continued to rise, neither player yielded with the first four sudden death holes all halved with pars.
The deciding moment in the longest men’s final of recent memory then came at the 168-metre par three fifth and 41st hole of the match. Playing first, Perry played yet another solid gripped down six-iron to around ten metres from the hole before Lyras just missed the green to the left with his seven-iron. A sound sand recovery came out to just over two-metres before Perry lagged down to a conceded par. Faced with the par saver to keep the final alive, Lyras missed for Perry to became the proud winner of the 2016 Men’s Victorian Amateur Championship.
The Victorian Men’s & Women’s Amateur Championships are the most prestigious amateur events on the Golf Victoria calendar. First played in 1894 (Women) & 1899 (Men), both Championships are well over a century old.
The Men’s event has now produced 69 separate winners including players such as Ivo Whitton, Harry Williams, five-time British Open Champion Peter Thomson; Australia’s first British Amateur Champion Doug Bachli; founder of the Cobra Golf Company Tom Crow and noted professionals Mike Clayton Robert Allenby Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Marcus Fraser.
The women’s event boast winners such as Mona MacLeod, Susie & Shirley Tolhurst, Burtta Cheney, Margaret Masters, Sandra McCaw, Lindy Goggin, Jane Lock, Louise Briers, Jane Crafter, Stacey Keating and more recently Su-Hyun Oh.
The Victorian Amateur qualifying rounds have been held as part of the Port Phillip Amateur since 2008 for men and 2012 for women while this is the fifth year that the Men’s and Women’s Victorian Amateur match play rounds have been contested concurrently.
Golf Victoria extends sincere thanks to Kingston Heath and Commonwealth for hosting the 2016 Port Phillip Amateur and to Woodlands for staging the match play rounds of the 2016 Victorian Amateur. All three courses were presented in superb condition with all players and officials greatly appreciating the commitment which each afforded the respective Championships.
Click here for full results from the Victorian Amateur Championship.