Date: February 07, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Long delivers miracle at 13th Beach


The words “Michael Long’s playoff birdies seals the Oates Vic Open” don’t remotely do it justice.

The man himself could barely find his ball, let alone the words to describe how he extricated himself from a place elephants would probably avoid as a dying ground.

And yet there it was.

The Perth-based Kiwi, from knee-high reeds 45m left of the flag, played a shot he first described as “one in 100” to set up the winning putt from 2.5m.

Later he wasn’t so sure that he could live up to such a lofty percentage about hitting a ball wedged in grass thick enough that it was suspended about 50cm off the ground.

“I was walking in there and was worried the ball might actually fall down to the bottom of the reeds and one of the marshalls was saying even to be careful when you stepped in there,” Long said.

“I just had to trust my hand-eye co-ordination that I could hit a ball that far off the ground.”

The shot was so hit-and-miss – especially with rival Matt Millar inside 8m for a birdie try in their sudden-death shootout – that the 47-year-old didn’t even bother pacing out a distance.

He said his thought was not to smash it into the bunkers beyond the pin; instead to just leave himself a realistic chance of getting up and down for par should Millar miss.

And then there it was – the Miracle at 13th Beach.

With little more than a bunt swing and top-spin of which Rafael Nadal would have been proud, the ball emerged from 2m beyond the hazard markers and just rolled and rolled into what, surely, must be the greatest shot he’s ever played.

Especially given the moment in which it was generated.

“It’s up there. It’s gotta be in my top 10 for sure and especially to win a tournament in that situation, yeah. I can’t explain it.”

And while many amazing shots have been struck to win big events around Australia over the decades, none will have owed more to the explosion of cameras and social media to ensure that its majesty isn’t forgotten.

In fact, that Golf Victoria’s livestream coverage will mean the shot is archived is a complete blessing because it will end hyperbole about other shots to have achieved such feats.

Long, whose seventh professional victory came a full 24 years after his first, felt sorry for Millar.

“But there’s plenty of ways to win a tournament and after 27 years out there on tour, you’ve seen enough that you know never to give up,” Long said.

And after a finale that defied belief, there were the words that put it all in perspective.