Date: March 27, 2014

Clayton: Webb-like greatness for Oh and Lee

At the end of last year I watched the finals of the Victorian Amateur Championship at Kingston Heath. The qualifiers are decided over a first-class 72-hole tournament played at Kingston Heath and Commonwealth and in the women’s event there was some extraordinary scoring, so low it was unprecedented in this country. Su-Hyun Oh shot twenty under par and beat Minjee Lee by a two shots. Here was a pair of teenagers shooting unimaginable scores and they duly made their way to the final where Oh was about 17 under par for the 34 holes it took her to beat Lee. It was brilliant golf but, with the greatest of respect, it was played on a course set-up to test average member play and not the play of women well capable of competing with the best in the world. The 1st and 17th holes, played as par fives from normal women’s tees, were little more than drives and seven irons. Almost all of the par fours were drives and wedges and even the longer ones 6, 11, 16 and 18 both women were playing seven or eight iron seconds. At the 12th and 14th holes, the longest of the longer par fives, they were almost within reach of a couple of good wood shots. This week at Lake Karrinyup the Lee and Oh show moved to the Bowra and O Dea 72 hole championship. Once again the scores were incredible. Oh finished in 65 for 22 under par 274 and Lee made a closing birdie to finish at 275. The par was a very generous 74 (the par 5, 2nd is little more than a drive and a 7 iron) and it is hard to be as critical of the course set-up as I would like because I didn t see it in person. I make the assumption the tees were set much the same as they were at Kingston Heath and Commonwealth and Karrinyup played very short given how well and now far Oh and Lee drive. Next week both head to Palm Springs and the Kraft Nabisco championship. It will be the first major championship of their careers and there are sure to be many more. Karrie Webb has called them once in a generation players and having caddied for Oh in the recent Australian and Victorian Opens it is clear there is the potential of Webb-like greatness in both women. They play with such assurity and confidence and there is no fooling around when it comes to working at their games. Both have a chance to be truly great players but there are no guarantees and there are always bumps on the way. Anyone remember Bobby Clampett? The question is, should these courses holding national amateur events be set-up to really test these two brilliant players or should they be set-up to protect the lower end of the field from bad scores? If we are going to produce great players there can only be one answer to the question. They need to be back on the men’s tees playing courses at least 6000 meters long. Not only will it more fully test their shot-making it would force those on the next level to play better. Next week in Palm Springs the course will play around 6200 meters or about 200 meters longer than Victoria played for the recent Women’s Open. Victoria was well arranged to test the best players in the world and after three days Lee was tied for the lead on thirteen under and Oh was back at seven under. They finished both with 78s in the high winds of the final day but that week was a glimpse into the future of Australian women’s golf post Karrie Webb. No doubt it is in good hands but these scores in amateur events are flattering and there needs to be more thought put into how our best courses are played in the biggest women’s events. It is no good saying how incredible the golf is when what they are playing is little more than pitch and putt.