The skies might have been a deep orange hue from nearby bushfires, but for Danny Nesbitt and Olivia Wilson, it was nothing but blue as the New South Wales pair claimed the Men’s and Women’s Australian Mid-Amateur Championships.
Wilson, making her debut in the tournament, was never headed in the final round. She started the day with a six-shot lead and had extended it to ten midway through the afternoon.
As the day wore on, Wilson never looked like letting go of her stranglehold on the lead. Six shots quickly became, eight, then ten. Despite a snafu on the 10th, the back nine became a formality, and it was simply a matter of how many she would win by in the end.
It was however a battle with the scorecard which became Wilson’s biggest concern and maintaining focus was critical.
“If I was a couple ahead, I would have done the whole matchplay thing.
”But six in front, I had to focus on making pars. I knew if I made 12 pars in the day I new I wouldn’t lose, so that was my goal.”
The win is also Wilson’s first national title, and one she was thrilled to have taken out.
“probably the best thing I have done in my golfing career,” Wilson replied when asked to rank her achievement.
“I’ve played eight interstate series, won one, but as an individual certainly the best, so very exciting,” she smiled.
In complete contrast, Nesbitt was in a battle royal against his opponents, Port Kembla’s Chris Campbell and Palm Meadows Adam Hawkins.
With the trio tied at the top to begin the final round, it was Nesbitt who grabbed an early edge on the front nine, the only one of the three to remain bogey free as the tournament neared it’s climax.
Like the smoke which began to engulf the region, things got tense on the back nine, and Nesbitt’s lead was soon under threat.
“I had a solid start to the front nine, I didn’t make a bogey until the 10th,” Nesbitt said.
All three in the final group had a share of the lead on the back nine, first Hawkins, then the former Japanese Tour Player Campbell, but it was Nesbitt who looked the most comfortable in the lead as the holes ran down.
That was until the 16th, when Nesbitt got unlucky with a horrible lie in a fairway bunker ofter his tee shot drifted right.
Unable to get it to the green, he pitched it out and then left his approach well short. Sensing a chance to get away with a par, the 34 year old who hails from the Links Shell Cove in the Illawarra rolled his first putt just a little too far past, and when he missed the return for bogey, the lead was suddenly Campbell’s again.
Unfortunately for Campbell, the lead was destined to be a short one, and when he overshot the green on the 17th and into a bunker, Nesbitt seized the opportunity to grab it back.
After a perfect approach left him about 10 foot for birdie, and he made no mistake.
“I played the 16th pretty ordinarily, but to come back with a birdie on the next was well, yeah,” Nesbitt beamed.
“It was a perfect sand iron in there.
“I didn’t mean to hit it straight at the flag, I was aiming just left, but it worked out well, and then it was a good roll.”
The birdie was enough for a vital one shot lead as they headed to the last, and Nesbitt was not going to make a mistake. Three solid shots and two putts from 25 feet for par was all he needed to claim the biggest title in his golfing career.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said after the win. “Yeah the biggest of my career for sure.”
The win could well be the last amateur title for Nesbitt, who will start a PGA traineeship next year.
“I’ve realised golf is my passion and I want to get into the teaching side of things.”
Asked about a victory celebration, Nesbitt smiled dryly.
” It’s the Links’ Presentation day tomorrow. I think it will be a big afternoon.”
Final Scores (Women):
Olivia Wilson 235
Adele Douglas 245
Cathy Stolz 248
Final Scores (Men):
Danny Nesbitt 221
Chris Campbell 222
Mark Boulton, Craig Whitehead, Adam Hawkins 224.