If form lines are anything to go by, then Cam Davis’ and Justin Warren’s match in the 2015 Australian Amateur Championship is one to take plenty of notice of as the Australian Open gets underway this week.
Held at this weeks’ venue, The Australian Golf Club, The 2015 Amateur is notable for the journey since then many of the participants have taken.
But to a keen follower of the sport, the semi clash stands out – Davis took it out in a thrilling 19th hole blow-for-blow battle royale against his NSW counterpart Justin Warren. Both at the peak of their game and amongst Australia’s finest amateurs at the time.
Two years removed from that semi-final and Davis was an Australian Open Champion, while Warren was on the other side of the planet, grinding away at his game in Little Rock, Arkansas having bounced between a couple of colleges. He had endured severe health scare and his world ranking had dropped into the mid two thousands.
Early in his teens, Warren, originally from the small Antill Park Country Club in Picton, had almost no intention of chasing a pro-career until his breakout moment at the NSW Open in the summer of 2014.
“I came out of nowhere that week and surprised a few people, even myself,” he said.
“To play with guys like James Nitties and Matt Giles that week let me compare my game to theirs, and you know I thought I’m still young and not that far away from these guys.”
At that point, Warren knew he wanted to be a player at the highest level, and the golf world looked like it was going to be at his feet.
Then came THAT Australian amateur.
“I beat some really good players that week – Kiran Day, Harrison Endycott, Ryan Ruffels, Brayden Petersen.
“Then I met Cam in the semis,” Warren said.
The match was a classic and neither player gave an inch.
Mark Hayes, Golf Australia’s Media Manager, followed the pair that Saturday and described it as a cracker.
“Cam was on a mission from God that week. He was unbeatable and found a way to win,” Hayes recalled.
“The semi was the ultimate example of it. There were some unbelievable shots exchanged.
“It could have gone either way. Justin’s golf was well worthy of the victory, but he just ran into a buzzsaw that week.”
The ensuing months following his Australian Amateur performance were further confirmation for Warren he was heading in the right direction. A win in Malaysia alongside Endycott came quickly, and it wasn’t long before the offers from US colleges came rolling in.
After hitting a high of 71 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Warren took up an offer in Arizona, and his golfing destiny was seemingly set.
Sadly for him, it soon became a bumpier ride than expected.
“College wasn’t even on my radar when I was going through high school. I had to go to junior college first,” Warren said.
“I had a really good first year, but you’re playing smaller events and the ranking points just aren’t there.”
Warren set out in his second year determined to improve on his freshman year. That was, until a fateful week at a tournament in San Diego.
“We were at a golf tournament there, and just out in the practice round.
“I just started getting terrible chest pains, started feeling nauseous, light-headed, shooting pains down my left arm.
“We went straight to the doctors and they did an ECG.
“They told me we think you have had a heart attack.”
Warren spent a week in intensive care and underwent a battery of tests. With his parents flying in to be by his side, he was eventually diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammatory disease of the heart lining.
Worse still was being unable to pick up a club for over four months.
“That was kind of the end of my second year at college,” he added.
With the massive disruption, and a promising ride through the US system stalled, Warren took the opportunity to change colleges, and in 2017 moved to the University of Little Rock Arkansas.
The switch proved a fruitful one for him, and as Warren’s health improved, so did his form. Within a year, he was a regular in the college golf team.
Warren returned home last Christmas with a renewed confidence in his game and a clear idea of the direction he wanted to go. Some pleasing results in the major amateur events of the summer and an impressive sixth place finish at the Australasian PGA Tour School meant he could return to the US to complete his degree safe in the knowledge of what lay ahead.
After graduating in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Warren returned home and promptly turned pro. Using his Q School exemption, he soon made his mark with a couple of handy Pro-Am wins.
Fast forward to now and Warren is making his first start in the national open. It has been a long journey, but one which has seen him emerge as a far more accomplished player than in his earlier days.
This week is a special one too, being played on his home course. A popular member of the club’s representative major pennant squad for many years, there will be plenty of support come Thursday when the championship begins.
“I made it a goal of mine before I went to college, I was going to graduate, and I was going to play my first Australian Open here.”
“I’ve got a lot of support out here, friends, family and members of the club. It feels good.”
Importantly too is his form, and save for a last hole snafu at the NSW Open, Warren would already have a mark in the win column next to his name.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence, and I just hope I can put what I learned last weekend into play this Sunday come the 72nd hole, that’s all,” he said with a grin.