Date: January 19, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

#AusAm: Barbieri’s miracle rally



The men’s Australian Amateur title was heading overseas again until Nathan Barbieri’s desire for a fight – and fried chicken – kicked in.

Barbieri, 21, was in a world of trouble against German Jannik De Bruyn in their semi-final at Woodlands Golf Club when his caddie, New South Wales state teammate Jordie Garner, piped up to inspire his charge with a culinary promise should he triumph.

Then three down on the 14th tee, Barbieri, roused by the thought of secret herbs and spices, played inspired golf all the way to the clubhouse, prevailing in dramatic circumstances on the 18th hole to make tomorrow’s final.

The Monash Country Club member will face Ireland’s Conor Purcell, who won his semi 1-up amid more drama on the home hole.

Purcell, who had led for much of another great contest, had looked in trouble when his second to the par-five 18th finished right of the green and Hirmer found the green for an eagle try.

The Irishman played a delicate bump shot to just outside a metre and later dropped his short birdie putt to heap the pressure on Hirmer.

The German’s eagle try to win had finished less than 50cm from the cup and most in the generous gallery assumed they would head to the 19th to continue the battle.

But there was soon an audible gasp from the crowd when Hirmer missed his short birdie try to hand Purcell the first final berth.

At the same time, De Bruyn – nothing short of stellar in taking down No.2 seed Blake Windred earlier in the day and almost as good with four more birdies through 13 holes in the semi – was unknowingly on the cusp of his own disaster on the 18th tee.

With Barbieri having hit a booming drive up the middle, the left-hander from near Dusseldorf snap-hooked his and the ball was lost somewhere in deep rough against the boundary fence – or maybe just over it – despite a small army as a search party.

His provisional drive wasn’t much better and by the time he chopped it back into play, it was his fifth shot that ultimately found the green as Barbieri calmly deposited his second to the middle of the putting surface.

De Bruyn, all class after his bogey putt missed, conceded Barbieri’s eagle and shook hands politely despite clear disbelief that his hard-won lead had evaporated in a trance.

Barbieri was an impressive combination of humble and stunned straight afterwards.

“I was on the 14th tee thinking I was cooked … I wasn’t hitting many good shots and I’d just come off three bogeys,” the Sydneysider said.

“I just kept talking to Jordie and I was definitely due to make some magic happen and play some good holes coming in, which I did, so I’m very proud of myself for not giving up.”

A win with a par on the 14th was followed by an absolutely lasered 3-wood second shot from 260m on the par-five 15th that clearly made De Bruyn think of what might happen as the lead was slashed to one.

A tense 16th was halved and De Bruyn’s miss to the short side of a left pin on the 17th couldn’t be overcome and another birdie was conceded to the Aussie, who was suddenly square.

“Then I hit a good drive so all the pressure was on him and unfortunately for Jannik, he hit two shots right,” Barbieri said of the final-hole drama.

“I had to hit one more good shot … and hit 6-iron from about 180m and that was it, really

“My heart is going really fast, but I’m pumped.

“It’s very satisfying. I know that I’ve been working hard and it’s awesome.”

The men’s final, to be played over 36 holes, is scheduled to start at 8.40am on Sunday at Woodlands.