Lightning strikes as Hopewell, Ji take 6’s Crowns

It was like lightning striking in the same place as Western Australian Hayden Hopewell and local Belinda Ji claimed the inaugural Junior 6’s Invitational at Cronulla Golf Club.

And like the literal bolt which brought a temporary halt to proceedings midway through the afternoon, it was the twin victories over the reigning Australian Boys and Girls champions, Elvis Smylie and Hye Park, in the finals that thrilled the crowd on hand to watch.

The stage was set for some spectacular golf as soon as the matchplay rounds began with Jacob Dundas, the 8th seed, taking out the boys top seed Jeffrey Guan in a sudden-death nearest the pin thriller to blow wide open the top half of the draw.

It opened up the door for Hopewell who accounted for the plucky Novocastrian in the semi-finals, with a 3 /2 win.

Smylie, the second seed, accounted for both Blake Phillips and Tyler Duncan comfortably to reach the final and was looking to many as the man to beat.

It was all Hopewell in the final however, and the Western Australian young gun jumped to an early lead. Falling behind early was always going to be a tough ask for Smylie to overcome, and when the Western Australian made a clutch birdie on the par-five (16th) to go dormie, it was as good as over.

It was all Hopewell in the final however, and the Western Australian young gun jumped got off to a flying start with wins on the first two holes.

Falling behind early was always going to be a tough ask for Smylie to overcome, and when his Western Australian opponent made a clutch birdie on the par-five (16th) to go dormie, it was as good as over.

A concession on the penultimate hole was all Hopewell needed, and the title was his.

Hopewell was an excited young man after the final and described the result as the biggest win of his career.

“My game plan for the super 6’s was to go for everything, don’t hold back and have no regrets,” the 17-year-old said.

“It paid off. I ended up being nine under for the 15 holes.

“This win is definitely up there. I won the Jack Newton (International) last year. I’m proud to be the inaugural winner.”

Alongside the Boy’s Champion crown Hopewell has also guaranteed himself a start in the AVJennings NSW Open next month as well as a start in the Gippsland 6’s.

“It should be awesome to play, I can’t wait,” Hopewell beamed.

The girl’s matchplay section came down to the top two seeds in the final, Queensland-based Korean Hye Park, the NSW and Australian Girls Champion, and Concord’s Belinda Ji.

Park looked to be cruising to the crown, holding a one-up lead with three holes to play.

Sadly, a lost ball on the par 5 (16th) seemed to rattle the talented 15-year-old. An errant tee shot on the next led to a second conceded hole, and suddenly it was Ji in the box seat with just the par-three last to play.

Ji, the NSW girls team captain, showed how strong a competitor she is under pressure, hitting her tee shoton the last to just under 4 metres to heap more pressure on Park.

Park responded, knocking her tee shot in closets well. Sadly, She couldn’t convert the putt, leaving Ji two putts for the title which was all she needed.

Ji was equally as thrilled with her win as Hopewell.

“it’s an amazing win for me.

“I haven’t really played anything like this before, so it feels special to win.”

Asked about the sudden turn around in the match over the last couple of holes and how she handled the situation, Ji admitted all she could do was stay patient and hope.

“I had been playing pretty well all day, So I knew I might get my chance, and I was just going to have to stay patient.”

The win also secured Ji a place in the 2020 Women’s NSW Open at Dubbo Golf Club.

Competing against some of the game best female professionals is familiar turf for Ji, She qualified for her first Women’s NSW Open as a 12-year-old, and during the 2018 Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville recorded a hole-in-one on the 17th hole during the first round.

“I’m looking forward to playing against the professionals again. It’s great to be able to see how you can play against them; it’s a great experience,” she smiled.

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