Date: February 14, 2014
Author: Mike Clayton /

Clayton: Victoria a worthy test

At the end of last year those few interested enough to journey to Kingston Heath were lucky to watch the brilliant final of the Victorian Women’s Amateur Championship. In the 72 hole qualifying event Su Hyon Oh battered the par at Commonwealth and Kingston Heath, (36 holes qualifying at each course) shooting 20 under and finishing two shots ahead of her great rival and friend Minjee Lee. They duly played their way predictably to the final where Su won on the 35th green. Between them they were a crazy number under par and on the surface the scoring looked incredible. The problem was the courses played off the women’s tees and set for average level club member play. Both courses played around 5500 meters and for two teenagers who drive 230 meters easily the courses were simple pitch and putt affairs and no way to show off their real talents. This week at Victoria the scoring has been first-class, a reflection not only of good play but perfect weather, perfect greens and a course arguably even at 6000 meters is too short for the better players. Jessica Korda, the winner at Royal Melbourne two years ago, hits with as much power as any woman ever to play the game. She of the athletically talented tennis-playing parents must find a 6000 meter course to be pretty short given she regularly drives 250 meters. It would be one thing if she was crooked but here caddy noted after the second round on Friday the driver is the best club in her bag . Driving that far and straight doesn’t leave a lot left to do with the irons into the greens. Mickey Wright was arguably the finest ever woman player and Ben Hogan described her swing as the best I have ever seen. Wright dominated the tour in the 1960s and last year I was involved in a podcast with Judy Rankin who won twenty six times in the American tour and now does television commentary. I asked her about Wright and she described her awesome play and said unprompted there was one player out there now who plays like Mickey Wright. Jessica Korda reminds me so much of Mickey the way she hits those long irons with such power. Minjee Lee, second last week on the Gold Coast, is two shots better than Korda and normally the play of a teenage amateur shooting 68,67 would be described as extraordinary. It seems ridiculous but those scores are not as all surprising. I am caddying for Su Oh (74,69) this week and we talked a little about being 17, still in school but being good enough to compete on the US Tour already and the frustration of wanting to get out there as soon as she can. The problem is she said everyone is so good so young now. There is nothing left to do in amateur golf especially in Australia when Su and Minjee are so far ahead of the rest and whilst eighteen is awfully young to be on the tour Severiano Ballesteros was playing as soon as high school was over and Korda was only 18 when she won at Royal Melbourne. Lydia Ko is the poster child for the phenomenon and one wonders how it all came about. The equipment, especially the big-headed driver, makes it easier to hit long and straight but there is no doubt the technical information is so much better and more available that it was not just forty years ago but ten years ago. If the weather stays the same the winning score will be a long way under the 288 par but it doesn’t take much wind for Victoria so become a much different course from the one we have seen early in the week.