A birdie on the first hole of sudden death was all it took for Steven Vail to secure his first-ever start in the AVJennings NSW Open next month.
Vail and NSW Junior representative Thomas Heaton from The Australian Golf Club both posted an impressive five-under-par 66 in the Goulburn Cup on Sunday – the fourth of five regional qualifying events for this year’s Open.
Vail held his nerve in the playoff, and, courtesy of an enormous three wood to just short of the green – which he described as his shot of the day – was able to chip it to a metre for the birdie and the victory.
The field of 73 was a strong one, with plenty of interstate visitors in the mix, including Victorian representatives Aiden Didone, and 2017 Australian Amateur Champion Matias Sanchez. Also playing was 2018 NSW Country Champion, & NSW State Captain Josh Armstrong as well as former NSW Open Regional Qualifying Tournmanent winners, Konrad Kuipek, Hayden Gulliver and Jason Webb.
The scoring was impressive too. All up 11 players shot even-par or better around the challenging Goulburn layout. The high-quality golf did not phase Vail though, who has made some giant strides in the sport nationally over the last 12 months.
The win is a massive boost in confidence for the Ryde-Parramatta tyro, who, in his own words, had “always been a decent player – but just on the outskirts of tournament success.”
The 27-year-old credited his improvement to a renewed focus on his practice regime and training, both mentally and physically, with Precision Athletica.
“I have made some huge steps in the last six to eight months with how I approach the game and practice. Also physically with the guys out at Precision Athletica, and as a result, I have been playing the best and most uninhibited golf I’ve ever played in tournaments, ” Vail added.
With the tournament a little over two months away Vail said he would do what he needed to do to ensure he was ready when the time came to play.
“I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing as I’ve made a massive amount of progress this year.
“Being a local, I’ll go out a few times to the course and get some extra info and lines and sights in before tournament week rolls around.
“I’m looking forward to playing my home State Open with some mates who have been pro a little while, and some of the younger guys I know who will be out there,” Vail said.
Colin Lamb of Bermagui Country Club and Peter Richards of Moss Vale Golf Club ensured their spots in the Lincoln Place NSW Senior Open this month with scores of 75 and 77 respectively.