Date: April 07, 2019
Author: David Greenhill

Porter, Hughes rule Red Centre

Affinity for the Northern Territory paid off in spades today as Cassie Porter and Jake Hughes won their respective NT Amateur crowns in Alice Springs.

Porter, the defending champion, staved off a challenge from Kelsey Bennett to storm to the women's title.

Then in much the same manner, hometown hero Hughes carded his career-best 72-hole total for a breakthrough success.

Porter, still just 16, won at 12 under and by a colossal 11 strokes from St Michael’s member Kelsey Bennett who pressed early before fading for a closing 76 that left her at one under in total.

Her fellow New South Wales representative, The Australian’s Stefanie Hall, was third at three over after a closing 76.

Early in the final round, Bennett was one under at the turn and had closed the gap to five strokes.

But when the talented teen from Peregian Golf Club on the Sunshine Coast let loose, there was no stopping her.

Porter responded with a birdie at the par-five 10th and, as she’d done all week, she revelled on the back nine and powered away, finishing with back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 to ensure sub-par scores in each round.

"It’s a massive honour to win back-to-back NT Amateurs," Porter said.

"I love coming to the NT – the people are so friendly and welcoming," a thrilled Porter said after the round.

"I struck to my processes, didn’t think about being in the lead, trusted myself and had fun."

Having finished leading amateur at the recent Canberra Classic and NSW Women’s Open, Porter looms as one of the players to beat at this week’s Australian Girls Amateur Championship which starts on Wednesday at the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Golf Club on the Gold Coast.

On the men's side, Hughes began the final round with a one-stroke lead over another St Michael’s member, John Lyras.

And while the final round always loomed as a head-to-head shootout, there were some excellent performances from the chasing pack.

Defending men’s champion, Kyle Gray from Emerald Lakes on the Gold Coast, was the pick of the bunch with a closing six-under 66 for an eventual share of third place with Virginia’s Zach Maxwell on 279. Maxwell fired a closing three-under 69, including an incredible albatross on the par-five sixth.

But all eyes were on the leading duo.

Hughes had birdies at the first and sixth offset by a solitary bogey at the fourth, while par golf by Lyras was punctuated by a birdie at the awkward par-four eighth as each turned in 35.

But inspired at home, Hughes played emphatic golf over the final nine to draw away.

Birdies at the 10th and 11th followed a few holes later with an eagle at the downwind par-five 14th edged him clear of the talented Sydneysider.

A member at both Alice Springs and Kingston Heath in Melbourne, Hughes finished with a five-under 67 for a 16-under total, three clear of 22-year-old Lyras who closed with a 69.

"It’s pretty pleasing to win my home amateur with my best-ever 72-hole score," Hughes said.

"I have to really credit the win to my coaches Dayle Lynch and Craig Spence for developing my mental and physical game."

The NT Amateur began in 1970 and now annually alternates between Darwin and Alice Springs. The 2020 Championship returns to the Top End at the Darwin Golf Club.

As the sun set on the spectacular MacDonnell Ranges that flank the superb Peter Thomson-designed course, the 2019 championship will be remembered for the titles going to a couple of rising stars of Australian Amateur golf.

Porter is supremely talented and destined for great things, while Hughes' breakthrough win enables him to join recent men’s champions including talented young Australian professional Jake McLeod (2012) and star Victorian amateur, David Micheluzzi (2013), currently the 5th ranked amateur in world golf.