Nathan Barbieri has come agonisingly close to the biggest win of his career at the Sahalee Players Championship in Washington state this morning.
In a drama-charged finish, Barbieri and his playing partner in the final group, Cole Madey, were tied for the lead playing the par-five last. When the American knocked his second shot onto the green to about 4 metres and then calmly two-putted for birdie, all Barbieri could do was watch.;
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“It’s the best I’ve ever felt, best I’ve ever played. It’s kind of unreal really,” a surprisingly calm Barbieri said post round.
Earlier, the 21-year-old from North Ryde in Sydney’s north-west stayed true to his overnight comment that he would go out and play his naturally aggressive game and take the tournament to his opponents.
Call it nerves or the pressure of the situation, but the NSW State team representative didn’t make the best of starts, dropping shots on the first two holes. He settled down quickly, however, and soon began to play the quality golf he has become accustomed to over the last few months.
“I made a couple of stupid mistakes early on holes one and two,” he said. “Then I settled, and I made a couple of birdies to keep myself in with a chance.”
And a good chance it was. After draining a birdie on the 14th hole, the New South Welshman held the lead by one. A disastrous tee shot on the 15th led to a bogey, then to compound the situation, another dropped shot on the 16th meant Barbieri was where he started the day – down by one.
He wasn’t going to go down wondering 'what if' though, and immediately birdied the par three 17th to square the ledger with a hole to play.
Neither player was going to be held back on the18th and both ripped solid drives from the tee. The American's ball found the fairway while Barbieri's came to rest just a couple of meters to the right but in the rough. To the dismay of the band of team mates and supporters following Barbieri, his opponent, Madey played one of the shots of the day, rifling his second from 220 metres on the par five to about 4 metres.
When the Monash Country Club representative left his approach from the rough just short on the par five, and could only make a par, all that was left for the American Madey to do was to two-putt for the win.
Post-round, the 21-year-old was far from disappointed with his runner-up finish, one of the biggest results in his career to date.
“I’m not disappointed with the finish at all.
“He (Madey) hit a great shot into the last to seal it.”
Despite failing to pick up the win, the result is confirmation for Barbieri at least that he is capable of matching it with the elite of the amateur ranks.
“If I take something away from this week, it’s that I know I can match it with any player in the world,” Barbieri added.
RESULTS: 281 Cole Madey (US), 282, Nathan Barbieri (NSW), 288 Min Woo Lee (WA), 291 James Grierson (NSW), 301 Jordie Garner (NSW), 303 Zinyo Garcia (NSW).
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