One Back In The West: Guan Eyes Giant Prize

Martin Blake - Correspondent On Location
April 29, 2022

Jeffrey Guan sits one shot back of local hope Brayden Becker after two rounds of the Nexus Advisernet WA Open at Royal Fremantle Golf Club.

Becker, from Mandurah GC, raised hopes of a home-state win with a second straight brilliant round of 66 at Royal Fremantle, sending him into the weekend with the outright lead.

The 29-year-old has never won a tournament on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, but with solid knowledge of the course, crowd support in Perth, and relentless consistency, he has given himself the best chance yet.

Becker completed his second bogey-free round today, rolling in six birdies in the process. He narrowly missed another from inside two metres at the ninth hole (his 18th) to finish at 12-under par.

One shot back sits boom Sydney amateur Jeffrey Guan at 11-under. The back-to-back Australian Junior champion had bogeys at his last two holes to post a 67 to go with his opening 66, and he remains a chance to pull off a momentous victory.

Fellow New South Welshman Nathan Barbieri is next-best at nine-under, three shots from the lead entering the weekend. Another pair of Sydneysiders, James Grierson and Austin Bautista are at eight-under, four shots from the lead.

Guan, however, was sensational again, bolting to a five-shot lead in his morning round on the back nine before he gave back shots at the eighth, where his flared tee shot to the par-3 came to rest with mud on the ball, and at the par-4 ninth where he three-putted from long range.

His hole-out bunker shot for eagle at the par-5 11th hole was a highlight.

“That really got me going,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting it that great off 10 and 11, those first couple of shots weren’t great, but I was very happy about that.”

The Golf NSW high-performance star, coached by Matt Jones’ mentor Gary Barter, is the son of a Chinese immigrant father who drives an Uber.

Guan has had rave reviews for some years now, winning the past two Australian Junior championships, and he is justifying the high praise with some brilliant golf. He won a start at Golf WA’s invitation by finishing runner-up in the 2021 Australian Amateur, and now he is mixing it with some established pros while he tries to keep track of his homework.

“It feels really exciting,” said the Sydney teen, who is in year 12 studying for the Higher School Certificate. “I’ve never been in that position before, especially on the pro tour. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Meanwhile, the laid-back Becker, who had his girlfriend on course on Thursday and his brother today, relishes the chance to play close to home.

“Even though it’s not your home course, to have your home members meet you out on the course it’s nice to see,” Becker said. “All the text messages you get ‘well played, keep going’, that sort of stuff, and they actually rock up and show you what they really mean.”

The ‘sometimes’ worker in the pro shop at Mandurah Country Club said he planned on extending his bogey-free run beyond the current 36 holes.

“I’m going to keep it that way as long as I can. The course is just set up so nicely, if you keep it in play, like even if you put yourself out of position, the greens are so true if you hit a good pitch shot, get yourself somewhat close, you’ve always got a chance of making the putt to save the par.

“I’ve had to save a couple so far already, but I’ve managed to roll them in, which is good.”

Becker plans on playing a shot at a time and not thinking too much about the leaderboard this weekend.

“It’s the place we always want to play yourself into,” he said. “I’ve been playing really well generally, and it’s been really good and I need to keep plodding along. I’m definitely not getting ahead of myself when it comes to the scores.

“I’ve been in this position enough times, and I keep not throwing in a bad round, just a couple of shots here and there slip away and end up not scoring as well as I’m playing. Golf tournaments are four rounds each; not three or two.”

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