Western Australian Hannah Green and Cameron John from Commonwealth have won the respective 2015 Women’s and Men’s Victorian Amateur Championships after the 36-hole finals were played at the Commonwealth Golf Club on Wednesday 16 December.
Under clear blue skies but with a brisk south-easterly breeze making scoring challenging, 18-year-old Green defeated Victoria’s Stephanie Bunque three & two in a high quality display of ball striking. Similarly in the Men’s final, the prodigiously talented 16-year-old John produced a stellar display of sub-par golf to defeat Metropolitan’s David Micheluzzi six and four.
The morning round of the Men’s final set the platform for John’s victory, particularly as he had to withstand a withering start from 19-year-old Micheluzzi. With John finding trees at the first to lose the opener, Micheluzzi than played a spectacular second shot at the par-five second to a metre. The resulting eagle doubled the advantage which then grew to three holes after the Victorian State team member made a birdie at the fourth.
A winner of the Argentine Amateur in November, John soon settled and won the sixth with a par after Micheluzzi found green side sand and then the seventh and eighth with regulation figures to level proceedings. The teenager then went into overdrive taking the par-five 10th with a four; 12th with a par after an offline Micheluzzi drive; 15th with a par three and then a further birdie on the 17th to open up a four-hole gap. After finishing short and right of the green at the long par-four 18th playing back into the wind, Micheluzzi played an exquisite pitch and holed from two metres to save par and keep the margin manageable at the halfway mark of the final.
However John’s inward half of four-under 33 for an overall score of 70 during the morning round was a sign of further sub-par fireworks immediately after the lunch break. After halving the opening two holes of the afternoon round in birdies, John birdied the fourth to extend the lead to five-holes. With Micheluzzi safely on the fifth green in regulation and John over the back of the green with his approach, it seemed the margin would be reduced.
However John played what was perhaps the pivotal shot of the final by holing out for a birdie using his putter from approximately 25 metres. When Micheluzzi missed his birdie attempt, John’s lead increased to six holes. Runner-up at this year’s New South Wales Amateur, Micheluzzi continued to challenge and after matching pars at the sixth and seventh won the eighth with a birdie three and then again at the 11th to cut the deficit back to four-holes.
After an errant tee shot into the left side trees at the 12th, John rescued par after being forced to chip out to halve the hole and then regained the momentum with an eagle at the 440-metre par-five 13th to go back to five-up. A final crowning birdie at the 14th sealed the Men’s final for John, who was nine-under par across the day in becoming one of the youngest Men’s Victorian Amateur Champions in the events century long history. The quality of his iron play in particular was especially impressive and in total he was a staggering 24-under par throughout the Victorian Amateur Match Play rounds.
The Women’s final saw Australia’s number two ranked female player in Green off to a fast start taking the second with a birdie four and the fourth with a par to establish a two-hole lead over Bunque, winner of this year’s South Australian Women’s Amateur. In what was to become a pattern throughout an enthralling final, Bunque fought back to win the par-five sixth with a birdie before levelling the match with a par at the eighth.
Runner-up to Lydia Ko at New Zealand Women’s Open earlier in 2015, Green re-established a two-hole lead with pars at the 10th and 11th. A birdie to Bunque at the 13th momentarily cut the margin before Green went two holes clear again with a par at the 14th. Bunker trouble at the par three 15th and a cast iron par to Bunque saw Green’s lead drop back to one hole which remained the margin until the end of the morning round.
Bunque quickly levelled the final at the opening hole of afternoon round before Green rose to the challenge with birdies at the second and third to stretch the margin to two holes once again. Bunque took the fourth with a par and then drew level at the 140-metre seventh with a regulation three. After the eighth was halved in par four’s, Green then played a decisive stretch of holes with three consecutive birdies from the ninth to get to three-up through the 11th, the latter coming after a monstrous drive across the dog-leg.
However Green’s 18-year-old opponent refused to yield and won the 12th with a par and then the par-five 13th with a four to reduce the margin back to one-hole with five holes remaining. The Women’s final had reached the crucial stage and Green responded in style with birdies at the 14th and 15th to get back to a three hole and ultimately Championship winning lead. Drama still followed at the 16th when after driving through the dog-leg into the trees, Green managed to find the right greenside bunker with her second after clipping a tree with the a low approach. With a great bunker recovery to two metres, the Mt Lawley member holed the putt for par and the Women’s title.
Both players were thrilled with their respective victories with John commenting after the presentation, “It’s definitely the best golf I’ve ever played, to go 24-under overall anywhere is pretty impressive, especially at two of my favourite courses in Kingston Heath and Commonwealth.” “I don’t think it’s sunk yet,’ enthused Green, “I’ve been working quite hard the past few months, so it’s good to have it pay off. I’m sure I’ll realise tonight that I’ve won.”
The Victorian Men’s & Women’s Amateur Championships are the most prestigious amateur events on the Golf Victoria’s calendar. First played in 1894 (Women) & 1899 (Men), both Championships are well over a century old.
The Men’s event has now produced 68 separate winners including players such as Ivo Whitton, Harry Williams, five time British Open Champion Peter Thomson; Australia’s first British Amateur Champion Doug Bachli; founder of the Cobra Golf Company Tom Crow and noted professionals Mike Clayton Robert Allenby Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Marcus Fraser.
The women’s event boast winners such as Mona MacLeod, Susie & Shirley Tolhurst, Burtta Cheney, Margaret Masters, Sandra McCaw, Lindy Goggin, Jane Lock, Louise Briers, Jane Crafter, Stacey Keating and more recently Su-Hyun Oh.
The Victorian Amateur qualifying rounds have been held as part of the Port Phillip Amateur since 2008 for men and 2012 for women while this is the fourth year that the Men’s and Women’s Victorian Amateur match play rounds have been contested concurrently.
Golf Victoria extends sincere thanks to Kingston Heath and Commonwealth for hosting the 2015 Port Phillip Amateur and for jointly staging the match play rounds of the 2015 Victorian Amateur. Both courses were presented in superb condition with all players and officials greatly appreciating the commitment which both clubs afforded the respective Championships.