Date: April 13, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

West best again at #AusJnr


Golf Western Australia is the boys’ team champion of Australia after a thrilling finale at Sydney’s Riverside Oaks.

The young Sandgropers were exemplary throughout the week, losing just one of seven matches to take the title on total contests won from Queensland, including a convincing 3.5-1.5 victory over host New South Wales this morning to seal the deal.

It is the first victory for WA since 2000, when the team of Michal Golinski, Scott Hunter, Nicholas Kowalik, Rick Kulacz, Michael Sim and Tigh Van Leeuwen shared the title with NSW at Nudgee Golf Club in Brisbane.

And it could barely have been closer.

Starting the day trailing Victoria on contests won, the WA boys had to firstly topple New South Wales, then, with that result in the bag, barrack heartily for Queensland to unseat the Vics.

Queensland leapfrogged Victoria into second position with its win, with the final death knell for Victoria coming at the hands of the talented Louis Dobbelaar, who cashed in on the earlier good work of Tyler Duncan and Joel Stahlhut to give the young Maroons a 3-2 triumph.

But it ultimately left Queensland three contests shy of the West Australians who, despite suffering their only loss to Queensland early on day two, were rewarded for their consistency throughout the week, including big wins over traditional powerhouses Victoria and NSW in clutch matches across the final two days.

The ACT team capped arguably its greatest week with a crushing 5-0 win over the Northern Territory to remarkably jump clear of New South Wales and into fourth place.

South Australia was too strong for Tasmania and its 3.5-1.5 victory ensured sixth place for the joint defending champion, while Tassie finished seventh and the NT eighth.

But the day belonged to Western Australia, with a great contribution up and down the order almost as if to reconfirm what had happened throughout the week.

With Josh Greer the unfortunate player to sit out the final round, Connor Fewkes took NSW’s Billy Watson all the way to the 18th only to fall 2-down.

But Jordan Doull, undefeated throughout WA junior pennant this season, again showed he’s a talented match player with a 1-up victory in the No.4 slot against Blues skipper Jye Pickin.

Hayden Hopewell secured another half-point when he and the in-form Jones Comerford couldn’t be split in the No.3 match to leave the overall match in the balance.

But there was no reason to fear for the young WA squad.

Cooper Geddes, runner-up in last year’s men’s state championship, took down the impressive Jordan Garner 3&2 playing at No.2, then the unflappable Freddy Lee brought it home with a commanding 4&3 win over Joshua Gadd in the anchor match.

Lee, the top-ranked junior nationally in 2016, lived up to his growing reputation in losing just once in six matches through the week, to imposing Canberra youngster Josh Armstrong in a clash with the ACT that his teammates had already secured.

It was a fitting end for Royal Perth’s Lee and Mt Lawley’s Doull, both in their final junior campaign and with the latter joining Queenslander Duncan as the only unbeaten players throughout the week.

“I said to the boys at the start of the week, especially with Jordan and I playing for the last time, that we really just wanted to have fun and I’m really proud that we did that the whole time,” Lee said.

“I told them this morning that I didn’t care if we won, just that we had to follow our two goals of having fun and sticking to our plan to play the course, no matter what.

“It’s so good that everyone did that and it worked out so well … we’re rapt.”

Lee said the team had spoken about its 17-year title drought and that he thought that while there was no “absolutely outstanding” player among this year’s squad, that their bond was paramount.

“We’re a really close bunch of friends and we came in and said let’s just pull together and win and it’s incredible that we managed to do that as such a close group, being determined and working hard,” he said.

“We really thank Golf Western Australia for its endless support … we hope everyone at home is proud.”

The win continues a remarkable sequence for amateurs and young professionals from WA, from Brady Watt and Oliver Goss, to Minjee Lee and Hannah Green, Jarryd Felton, Curtis Luck, Min Woo Lee and a host of other quality young players to emerge in the past decade.

Their achievements are almost too numerous to list, but Lee said the environment was critical to the run.

“I think we’ve got a group of players with so much potential in our little isolated corner and we’re all pushing each other along. It’s fantastic.”

Lee, who’ll play for the open age team in next month’s men’s Interstate Series on home turf at Melville Glades, was thrilled with his own form and praised his opponents through the week for bringing out his best.

“Yeah, Josh got me, but we all had great matches (at No.1) throughout the event,” Lee said.

“It was really tight. One of the best matches I played was against (South Australian) Jackson (Kalz). I had nine birdies, seven in the first 12 holes and five in a row at one stage and I only won 2&1. It was an incredible match and I think Jackson was five under and only lost on the 17th green really when his ball accidentally moved and it cost him. We both felt sad to end the match like that, because it had been such great golf to be part of and it was like that all week.”