Date: August 13, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

“Raw” Eccles ready to bury last-hole nightmare

Ben Eccles played good enough golf to lead the Canadian Amateur Championship today – but only until the 16th hole.

The Geelong star, who has shared the lead throughout the prestigious century-old tournament, had poured in a series of third-round birdies to stand on that tee four under for his round and clear on top at 10 under.

A wayward drive on the par-five 16th sailed out of bounds. But undeterred, Eccles, who splits his time between Torquay Sands and 13th Beach golf clubs, parred his second ball to only drop a double-bogey.

Things appeared rosier when he drove the par-four 17th and made a two-putt birdie to seemingly right the ship.

Then came the moment that Eccles, hours after his round, said was “still pretty raw”.

A tugged drive into the left rough prompted a “flyer” second shot with an eight-iron that almost inexplicably sailed 180m long and right of the 18th green at the Weston Golf and Country Club – an area he described as “completely dead”.

His third shot was an airy, his fourth a penalty for an unplayable lie, his fifth into a bunker. A blast and two putts later, a quadruple bogey eight dropped him to third and five behind American leader Billy Kennerly.

“I’m still trying to work my way through it,” Eccles said.

“I played 16 great holes today and then it just came undone there. It was sort of a snowball.

“The second shot wasn’t sitting well, and I took two clubs less (to a 170m pin) than I normally would thinking it might fly a bit, but it just took off right.

“Still, I’m where I wanted to be at the start of the week. My thing was to give myself an opportunity to win at the end of the week and I’ve still got that, for sure.

“I’ll sleep on what happened, but I’ll be ready to go in the morning and be right for the one job at hand.”

The winner of the Canadian Amateur gets a start in the US Amateur Championship and next year’s Canadian Open on the US PGA Tour.

“That’s the end goal – and it’s still well within reach,” Eccles said.

“I’ve made 18 birdies this week, so I know I can make up ground pretty quickly.”

Eccles’ 74 left him at five under, but importantly still in the final three-ball tomorrow with Kennerly (-10) and Alberta’s Patrick Murphy (-6).

There was better news for the other Aussies to make the cut with the Gold Coast’s Kade McBride firing a steady 70 to slide up to T8 at two under.

His fellow Queenslander Maverick Antcliff had a far more erratic round with an eagle, four birdies and five bogeys on his way to a 71 that left him T16 at even par overall.

The fourth and final round is tomorrow, again at Weston near Toronto, Ontario.