Myrtleford golfer Nathan Schneider just managed to survive a disaster of his own making at Kyabram Parkland last Sunday, to become the first dual winner of the Banksia Victorian Par 3 Amateur Championship.
The 40-year-old maintenance engineer looked set to emulate his win in the championship last year with a minimum of fuss, when he led by three strokes with four holes to play.
Suddenly though the precise iron play that had been his strength across most of the 50 holes in the three-round event deserted him, and left him at the mercy of a short game that had been shaky all weekend.
As a result Schneider dropped five shots in the run to the line but fortunately for him none of his opponents could make capital of his meltdown, and he scraped home by a shot from 18-year-old Tom Cowie, who also staggered to the finish.
Schneider’s win, and the agony of those last few holes, was in direct contrast to his victory in 2011. Back then he rolled in a three metre par putt on the last hole for what he thought would be a second or third place finish, only to be told that he had, in fact, won by a shot.
This time he was under no illusion as to what was happening, and indeed was more than happy with the way things were going when he took a one shot lead into the last nine holes.
Schneider had begun the final round in second place, three shots behind 18-year-old Southern GC pennant player Tom Cowie, who played super golf across Saturday’s first two rounds for a 36-hole total of 107, one under the card.
Both players were in the final group on Sunday, and there was an early turn around when Cowie made a double bogey on the 189 metre second hole to Schneider’s par, reducing his lead to just one shot.
Cowie dropped another shot on the fourth hole to fall back into a tie with Schneider, who then made a birdie on the fifth to take a one shot lead, and extended it to two shots with another birdie on the seventh.
The margin blew out to three shots when Cowie made bogey on eight, but on the ninth he rallied with a fine birdie putt, while Schneider three-putted for a bogey, bringing the margin back to a shot.
The pair fell back into a tie for the lead on the 11th when Schneider made a bogey, but he quickly made amends with a birdie on 12, and when Cowie bogeyed both 13 and 14, the reigning champion was well within sight of back-to-back wins.
So, what happened? Quite simply Schneider’s tee shots began to stray off line, bringing into play the need for some accurate chipping, an aspect of the game he’d been struggling with.
“My chipping the whole weekend was a disgrace,” Schneider said. “But I’d been hitting a lot of greens, and if you do that around here, you’ll have a decent score.”
A poor chip on 15 cost Schneider a bogey and cut his lead to two. He then made a complete hash of the 173 metre 16th by leaving his tee shot short, making two horrible chip shots, then missing a putt to run up a double bogey.
That could have been it, except for the fact that Cowie made a mess of the hole and also racked up a double bogey, to leave a much relieved Schneider still with a two shot cushion.
The pair did their best to let someone else sneak up on the trophy by both making bogey on 17, but as it turned out there was no-one close enough to take advantage of the situation.
Schneider kept things interesting when he missed the 18th green and chipped well short of the flag, but when Cowie’s birdie putt rolled by the hole the title holder was left with two putts to win by a shot. And he did.
He finished with a round of 58 and a three-round total of 168, while Cowie’s disappointing final round of 62 gave him a total of 169. A further shot back, tied on 170 with Doug Francis, was the 2010 championship winner, Andrew Kane, who had a great, final round of even par 54, but blew his winning chance with a six-over-par 60 in the middle round.
Shepparton teenager Kyle Michel finished two shots back in fifth place with a score of 172, but a brilliant final round of two-under-par 52 was the best of the weekend.
Schneider, a former member of the Victorian state squad, loves playing the par-three championship and was more than happy to be the first player to defend the title in its eight year history. “It’s great,” he said. “It’s not easy to win around here; it’s pretty tough.”
A lot of work has gone into the Parkland course in the past 12 months, and in absolutely perfect weather conditions it painted a sparkling picture and earned unanimous praise. “It improves every year,” Schneider said. “This year the greens were amazing.”
And while scores of Parkland members worked overtime to make the tournament a success, Parkland golfers again figured in the trophy hunt, with Luke Roberts shooting a nett score of 161 to win the A Grade handicap, and young gun Mario Scapin finishing in a three-way tie for the B Grade championship on 198, only to be the ultimate loser on a countback.
Click here to view the 2012 Results
Article written by: Brian Meldrum