Date: August 23, 2016
Author: Tom Fee, GolfWA

Little WA hits the big time

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When Curtis Luck lifted the Havemeyer Trophy on Monday morning, there was one Perth golfer watching from home clutching a prized possession of his own.

Steve O’Keefe, an 18-marker from Cottesloe Golf Club, is the proud owner of a sheet of paper that proves he is the last golfer who has managed to defeat the 2016 US Amateur champion in matchplay.

This alleged match wasn’t even close — as O’Keefe eliminated Luck from the club’s Catlidge Clup by walkover when Luck was unavailable to make a tee time due to some ‘overseas commitments’.

With all due respect to O’Keefe, Luck had bigger fish to fry in the US — but why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The Catlidge Cup is a handicap event after all, and Luck’s handicap is a monstrous +6.

Absurd golfing achievements seem to be the way of things right now in Western Australia, and in a way it’s the facts that still get in the way. The more you think about it, the more unbelievable it all seems.

To put it bluntly, for the past five years Western Australia has virtually owned the USGA’s big four amateur events.

Thanks in part to Luck, Min Woo Lee at the 2016 Boys, and Minjee Lee at the 2012 Girls — Western Australia has dominated the past 20 USGA amateur events with three titles.

However South Korea, a country renowned for punching above their weight on the world stage, may beg to differ, with 5 titles from the last 20.

But went we look at the per-population data, as Australians are wont to do, South Korea comes up short with 1 title per 10 million residents since 2012.

Even Australia trumps South Korea with 1 title per 7.5 million, although New Zealand fare best at 1 per 4.4 million — thanks to Lydia Ko’s Women’s Amateur victory in 2012.

WA’s per-population statistic isn’t even measured in the millions, at 1 title per 833,000 people since 2012.

That in itself is an impressive stat, but in the words of a kitchen knife infomercial; there’s more.

WA isn’t just some small state that got lucky to net their three titles. They’ve become so common at the pointy end of USGA events that at times they’ve had to resort to eliminating each other.

Take 2013, where co-medallist Brady Watt and Oliver Goss met each other in the semi-finals after being seeded at No.2 and No.3 respectively.

The two good friends found themselves in the ridiculous situation of playing off for exemptions to the US Masters and US Open, as well as a place in the final.

By then the pair was used to such friendship-straining situations. Eight months prior at the 2012 WA Open, Goss and Watt finished the regulation 72 holes tied for the lead on 16-under, two shots ahead of Brett Rumford, the nearest professional.

In both cases, Goss won. If Watt was heartbroken to miss an Augusta berth he didn’t show it, hanging around to caddy for Goss in the final.

And this isn’t the only situation where one West Aussie was around for long enough to support another in the final. When Min Woo Lee won the US Boys amateur, quarter-finalist Fred Lee was on hand to cheer him on and cover the event live for GolfWA on social media.

Add Curtis Luck’s run into the semi-finals of the 2014 Boys’ amateur to Oliver Goss (2012 Men’s) and Hannah Green’s (2016 Women) quarter-final appearances, you get a total of nine instances of a West Australian making the quarter-finalists or better since 2012 — with six of those going on to the semi-final stage.

For the eastern states, it’s a different story — limited to two impressive achievements from Victorians Su Oh and Brett Coletta.

Coletta was outstanding in winning the strokeplay medal at the 2015 US Amateur, while Oh is the lone non-Western Australian in the last five years to make it into the final eight, with three straight quarter-final appearances from 2012 – 2014.

WA’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the USGA. By winning the US Amateur, Curtis Luck made USGA reporter Stuart Hall look like a genius after he declared pre-tournament that Perth was becoming golf’s new powerhouse.

But as a powerhouse, the WA’s golfing community feels incredibly small.

After wasting 10 minutes on google trying to find the name of the US Boys’ Amateur trophy for this story, I realised I could just ask its owner for the answer. Min Woo solved the mystery within a minute; “I can’t find anything, I don’t think there is one,” his text read.

Eighteen hours prior, in the ungodly early hours of Monday morning, another Perth golfer indirectly helped me in an unexpected way.

Frustratingly, the US Amateur final was not broadcast live into Australia. Yet, for some reason, it was in Ireland — where my brother sat in his house in Cork texting me updates so I could then update Australia on twitter.

It was an innocuous update that grabbed my attention. “The broadcasters gave a shoutout to Curtis’ sister (Jasmine) and are showing his mum (Jody) on screen now”.

Just hours earlier, I has been talking to Jasmine about the broadcast, or lack of in Australia. Both of us were desperate to find a way to see Curtis home, but failed.

But via my brother in Ireland, I found that Jasmine had somehow figured it out. I immediately texted her for an explanation.

Her answer blew me away.

Jasmine was watching the final over facetime via the phone of WA teaching professional Danielle Montgomery, who happened to be in New York at the time and able to watch the final.

It was genius. I immediately demanded my brother to stop texting me and start filming.

This would explain why the video GolfWA tweeted of Curtis Luck’s winning moment on the 32nd green looked so poor. You can expect that when your phone is recording a computer screen, that is displaying the stream from a camera filming another screen in Ireland, which is picking up a broadcast from the USA.

The demand for any kind of stream was huge that night. Whenever the USGA broadcast their intermittent Facebook Live streams of the final, the comments section turned into a social gathering.

In between shots I couldn’t help but keep an eye on the comments — as people exchanged “how are ya’s” and organised their next social rounds. Royal Perth seemed a popular spot.

It was WA in a nutshell. Everyone seems to know each other and it only adds to the joy felt when one of us takes on the world and wins.

Golf may be an individual sport, but to adapt a cheesy and entirely made-up phrase from the Simpsons: the achievements of one embiggen us all.