Date: January 22, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Herbert back from the brink, again

For the second time in as many days, Lucas Herbert has bounced back from the brink as his rollercoaster Australian Amateur Championship ride continues.

Herbert, a Golf Australia national squad member, was effectively the last man into the matchplay phase with only a freakish rescue shot during a playoff on Wednesday evening giving him the 64th and final seed.

Today, after being 3-down through four holes to medallist and top seed Nick Marsh, the Bendigo 18-year-old rallied again to turn 2-up and win 4-&-3 at The Australian in southern Sydney.

Remarkably, the Neangar Park and Commonwealth pennant player came within 1cm of holing out for an ace with what became his final shot as the Englishman conceded before putting on the 15th green.

“It’s been quite a wild ride,” Herbert admitted afterwards.

“I’ve been looking down the barrel a couple of times and I’m still around … but that’s matchplay.”

Herbert was joined in the final 32 of men’s competition by fellow Victorian Ryan Ruffels, who also had a tough passage, pushed all the way by New South Welshman Joshua Reid before winning 2-&-1.

“I made the stupid mistake of taking my hat off (preparing to shake hands) when he had a 35-footer for par on the 15th and he made that then birdied the 16th and 17th so I had to match that on 17 to finish it when I did,” Ruffels said.

“It was a tough match.”

Their fellow GA national squadmates didn’t fare as well with Brett Coletta going down on the 19th hole to an inspired Jack Sullivan; Cory Crawford losing 1-down on the last to Briton Paul Howard; and the big shock with Wodonga’s Zach Murray being dispatched 4-&-3 by Japan’s Daisuke Matsbara who was approximately six under when he won on the 15th green.

“He was just too good. He opened eagle-birdie-par-birdie and I was three down before I knew it,” Murray said.

“I fought to get back into it on the back nine (reaching 1-down through 12), but he just made a couple of birdies to close me out – it’s a good lesson, but I didn’t feel like I played badly.”

Sydney’s Cam Davis survived a tough match against comparative veteran Paul Bucan, the West Australian who has quit his job to assess whether he can make a mature-age run at being a pro golfer.

Bucan pushed the rising national squad star to the 19th, but conceded when he missed his par putt on the extra hole.

“I don’t think either of us played our best, there were only flashes of brilliance,” Davis joked.

“Full credit to Paul, it was a tough match and I’m glad to pull through.”

Remarkably, 10 of the top 15 seeds were bundled out, leaving the draw wide open with two rounds to be played on Friday.

Of the other big names to leave early, Perth’s Jarryd Felton lost to Kiwi Tyler Hodge 1-down, fellow WA star Cameron Jones dumped Englishman Ben Stow (3-&-2) and Singaporean fourth seed Johnson Poh was stunned by Victorian Blake Collyer.

The men will play their round of 32 tomorrow morning, then the round of 16 in the afternoon on a marathon day.

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