Date: January 17, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Smyth still a big winner

That was emerging Sydney star Travis Smyth’s take on his runner-up finish at the Australian Amateur Championship today.

The powerhouse 21-year-old, resplendent with his trademark “manbun”, fought tooth and nail with high-class Scotsman Connor Syme, who eventually prevailed 3&2 after an epic match.

“He’s just a quality golfer, a good bloke and he played really well,” Smyth said of Syme, who was exemplary in making just two bogeys on a challenging Metropolitan layout.

“But I won’t beat myself up. I’m really happy with the way I played and … that’s a good sign for the future to do well in a pressure situation.

“I was really happy with the way I fought late … making three birdies on the trot there (from the 12th hole) when he got it to 5-up – and even the par save I made on the 11th just to keep the heat on him when I could have dropped off.”

The reigning Riversdale Cup champion said he’d be excited to see his world amateur ranking climb again this week from its current 227.

“That will be good to see and it’s great to know that when you’re in this sort of situation now, your game can stand up,” he said.

“It’s one thing to improve and think you’re playing well, but when you get a chance to test yourself at a big event like this, it’s a great boost (mentally) to know it all hangs together.”

The St Michael’s ace held his nerve early in the first round today when Syme was peppering the pins. He calmly knocked in several hole-halving putts from knee-knocking range and finally had a moment in the sun with a spectacular long-range bunker shot that set up a winning birdie on the 8th hole.

Another on the 9th had the New South Wales state team player square again and he put his nose in front for the first time with a solid par on the 11th.

But typifying the match, Syme hit back hard late in the opening round with wins on the 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes to turn 3-up.

“He was great in that little stretch there and, in the end, that was the difference,” said Smyth who was unofficially one under par when the match ended.

“But I played some great shots today, probably a couple too many from the rough, but even then I didn’t get down on myself.

“I’d love to have won, but I think I’m happy that my game held up well under pressure.”

The New South Welshman wasn’t even in the team that won the Ross Herbert National Teams Trophy, with his state colleagues Liz Elmassian, Celina Yuan, Austin Bautista and Harrison Endycott wrapping up that domestic trophy after a stellar week by the Sydneysiders.