Date: May 04, 2017
Author: Matt Somerford, GolfWA

Rummy rejoices in #IntSeries “miracle”

Mention Western Australia’s "miracle" 1999 men’s Interstate Series triumph and Brett Rumford’s face lights up immediately.

A lot has happened in Rumford’s career in the 18 years since – he’s won on three major world tours and played in the time-honoured surrounds of St Andrews at an Open Championship – yet still that week at Mount Lawley Golf Club remains one of his fondest memories.

Rumford captained a West Aussie team that bucked the odds to clinch the title, which remains the state’s most recent men’s success ahead of the series returning to Perth next week.

"I remember that week vividly like it happened yesterday," Rumford said.

"We didn’t have the best players that year but we definitely had the best team, no doubt about it.

"We came together as a team and we pulled off a miracle win."

The likes of Curtis Luck have since graduated through the state’s proud program, yet have been unable to replicate the feat during an era dominated by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

The likes of Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Steven Bowditch and newly-crowned PGA Tour winner Cameron Smith have been part of winning teams in that period and if that is an indication of how hard it is to win an Interstate Series, then Rumford’s recollections of the mental barriers his team had to crash through almost two decades ago paint the picture even more accurately.

"We pulled off a miracle win against one of the best team that New South Wales had produced in a long, long while," said Rumford, who intends to get down the Melville Glades next week to watch the current WA team’s quest to win the title.

"We sure did it the hard way, though – we actually had that Interstate Series wrapped up on the Thursday. Or so we thought.”

Western Australia had appeared on course for the title when they swept to wide-margin wins in their opening two rounds – dropping just 1.5 points against South Australia and Tasmania – before casting aside a Victorian team that boasted Aaron Baddeley, who that year won the Australian Open as an amateur.

And when Rumford completed an 8&7 success over Wayne Perske in their singles clash against Queensland on the Thursday afternoon, it appeared the West Aussies were establishing an impregnable position.

It was then that trouble struck.

"Matchplay is so much more mental than strokeplay," Rumford said.

"We let our guards down and you can’t do that.

"We towelled Queensland up in the foursomes and we pretty much had them – I won against Perske and then I followed in the last six matches. I think we were one match down in those at that point.

"We had basically secured the title on games won, because we hadn’t lost or tied a match with any other state at that point – every other state had lost a game or at least tied.

"So all we had to do was cross that and we were done. But matchplay being matchplay, things just started to turn.

"There were guys four-putting the last green. There was some crazy stuff going down – the momentum shift we had after everything was basically locked away – it felt like the wheels had started falling off the cart."

While Western Australia did manage to scramble a half from the match with Queensland, it felt like disaster to the players.

"Everyone’s heads were down, everyone’s shoulders were slumped and looking at the ground," Rumford said.

"The worst thing was we now needed to go and beat New South Wales on the Friday, who were our nemesis.

"New South Wales and Victoria are two of the hardest teams you can come up against in Interstate golf and all of a sudden we had to go and beat them."

With an air of resignation having now overcome his teammates there was little hint of the final-day comeback that would follow.

It took a frank discussion among the squad, on a green in the middle of Mount Lawley GC and away from the prying eyes of their rivals, to engineer the ensuing turnaround.

"I made a speech on that green that afternoon which was purely all about the fact that we hadn’t lost the Interstate Series," Rumford recalled.

"I had to pull the team together at that particular point. We finished on the 13th green, we were in the middle of the course, and all the other teams were expecting us to walk back with our heads down and deflated.

"We had a chat for about 15 minutes and we all put in our two cents worth. We came together as a team and walked up to the clubhouse as if it was reversed, as if we’d just pulled off a miracle half which gave ourselves a chance to win the next day.

"Rather than shutting it out, we shifted it to give ourselves that mental enthusiasm – that we still had a chance.

"Not just a chance but a great opportunity. We would have taken that at the start of the week – beat New South Wales and you win the Interstate Series.

"You have to take everything you get and in matchplay nothing is taken for granted."

History records that Western Australia would edge that final-round contest against New South Wales 6-5.

Naturally they would do so after a stirring comeback, winning five of the seven singles matches to complete a week that would forever be etched in their minds.

"We had let our guards down and took it for granted – the next day we came out and we all played amazing golf," Rumford said.

"The way we won that Interstate Series was purely a team coming together on that Thursday afternoon and vowing to produce the result on Friday.

"It is something to be very proud of and I am surprised Western Australia has not won an Interstate Series since."

Rumford has seen the current WA team first-hand after they ran a team of PGA professionals close when they met in a matchplay contest in late March.

Rumford was beaten by Min Woo Lee, the number one ranked men’s amateur player in Australia, 7&6 during the afternoon singles, but the 39-year-old believes it is the depth of this current team that gives it the best shot at ending the title drought.

"All the boys from the state side – it’s a really strong team," Rumford said.

"It has a real depth about it I think – maybe in years past it has been top heavy. I reckon from top to bottom you have a real strength and they have all been playing some really good golf this year.

"The signs are there. It’s just all about belief at this point – team unity and belief. They have to believe that they have the game to go out there and do it on the day."