Victoria landed the final punch of a power-packed fortnight today, winning the Boys’ Interstate Championship.
After Ryan Ruffels won last week’s Australian Boys’ Championship and the Victorian girls won their teams’ trophy on Tuesday, the boys made it three from four for the Big V on a memorable trip to South Australia.
With three states breathing down the Victorian boys’ collective neck, including this morning’s rival Queensland at the Links Lady Bay Golf Club, the heat was on Aiden Didone, Konrad Ciupek, Josh Hetherington, Cameron John and captain Ruffels.
But manager Ashley Marshall said the tight-knit group responded superbly under pressure having worked their destiny into their own hands through “an extremely close week”.
“We spoke last night about how we controlled our own fate now … and that we needed to finish what we’d done all week,” said Marshall, also the GV high performance manager.
“My take from the week was how close the series was … so it came down to a lot of little things and we did them all pretty well and as a team – and that’s what made the difference in the end.”
Didone, 17, led for much of his match in the No.5 slot, but outstanding Queensland prospect Louis Dobbelaar reeled him in went 1-up through 16.
But the Metropolitan member make a vital birdie on the 17th to square the match, which ended in a half-point for each state after both players parred the last hole.
Ciupek, 16, of Victoria GC, was super impressive throughout his No.4 match with Charles Pilon and was four under par when the match was won 4&2.
A spectacular finish for Chris Park gave the Queenslanders hope in the No.3 match. After trailing Royal Melbourne’s Hetherington early, Park almost aced the short 15th to take the lead.
Hetherington responded with his own brilliant chip-in on the 16th, but Park’s 10m birdie bomb on the 17th proved too much and he went on to win 2-up with a final-hole par to heap the pressure on the final two matches.
Cameron John, the unsung hero of Victoria’s campaign after twice earlier in the week holing critical putts to halve matches that proved invaluable, was again the focus.
And the Commonwealth member kept his nerve again as Steven Cox charged in their No.2 clash.
Cox made huge putts on the 16th and 17th holes to have the match square going up the last, but when he made an error on his approach to the par five and then another with his first putt, John’s par was good enough for a 1-up triumph that sealed at least half a point for Victoria.
That left Ruffels, stellar all fortnight, to seal the deal – and the skipper let nobody down, even against the impressive Douglas Klein in the No.1 match-up.
The dual national junior champ was four under par today when the match ended at 2&1 on the 17th green, meaning he was an incredible 28 under through 115 holes through his seven rounds and the undoubted star of the week.
Ruffels was one of just three players to remain unbeaten throughout the seven-match series, alongside Western Australia’s No.3 Cameron Jones and Dobbelaar, whose performance aged 13, against boys up to four years older, was truly extraordinary.
Ruffels, a Golf Australia national squad member, said his fortnight had been memorable after a commanding 15-stroke individual victory at Kooyonga last week.
“That was good, but to do this with the boys is even better … and that the girls won as well just makes it something you never forget,” said Ruffels, who mentioned the importance of team depth, including Matias Sanchez, who was rested today.
“You can focus on one score, or one match, but the reality is that every match is worth the same as the other and to get that bond with such a good group of guys is awesome.
“They got around me last week, but to do this with them all is so much better again. It’s a cool feeling.”
Victoria’s win gave it back-to-back boys’ titles, but it marked the first time in the state’s rich golfing history that both boys and girls had won in the same year.
“It’s really competitive around the country, so to do that is a great achievement by our teams and those in the background,” Marshall said.
Victoria’s win today made the results of the other matches moot, but didn’t dampen their competitiveness.
Western Australia capped a stellar week when it halved its match against New South Wales with Min Woo Lee coming up big 4&3 in the No.1 match against Jason Hong.
The half-point was enough for WA to finish runner-up, while sending NSW into a tie on points with Queensland and the fast-finishing South Australia.
The hosts smacked Tasmania 5-0 today for their fourth straight victory, but couldn’t quite catch NSW on matches won (23-22) to lose a countback for third overall. Queensland (20.5 matches won) finished fifth in the same countback.
The ACT won the “battle of the territories”, toppling the Northern Territory 4-1 to finish on two points and in sixth.
Tasmania was seventh on one point, while the winless NT finished eighth.