Bryden Macpherson is anything but a grizzled veteran.
But the new Golf Challenge New South Wales Open champion played like one today at Concord, collecting timely birdies and dolling out even more timely lessons to the younger brigade who ultimately chased him home.
At various stages of a gripping final round, no fewer than five men held or shared the lead; but nobody maintained their composure like the 30-year-old Victorian, who was lauded by those he vanquished in a rare show of admiration.
Adelaide’s Jack Thompson, in just his third tournament as a professional, looked the winner for much of the first 11 holes, but three from the side of the 12th green and three putts on the next proved his undoing as playing partner Macpherson calmly knocked in a long eagle try of his own for a three-shot swing on the 13th.
Thompson, 23, was delighted to have hung on and shared second with rising tyro Elvis Smylie, even though victory was, at times, almost within his grasp.
“I did feel like it was in my hands at one point,” The Grange member said.
“I tried not to look, but it’s pretty obvious when you’re in front. I’ll analyse it with my coach, but as long as I can keep getting better, which I think is the key to a long career.
“I’m sure I’ll probably rue the short putts I missed when I look back at it, but I made some good ones, too. I’ve got a card now, don’t have to go to Q-school, so I’m just happy.
“Really, I’d like to do exactly what Bryden did today, just learn to close it off better.
“He was so consistent and every time he got under pressure, he just steadied the ship and that’s something I really want to model over my career.”
Thompson said he and good mate Barbieri would also take a lot from the experience of playing in front of enormous galleries.
“It’s obviously disappointing, it just wasn’t my time,” said Barbieri of his share of seventh place.
“(But) it was a pretty good finish if you could take a big (objective) look at it, but it hurts right now.
“The crowd we played in front of this week was unbelievable … you can’t buy that experience and I’m so grateful to see what we just saw around the 18th with everyone crowded around the green.
“Even though I knew I couldn’t win the tournament, I was still nervous to have a birdie putt in front of so many people. So cool.
“I’ve learnt so much, got a lot to work on, but I’ll be back next year and better then, hopefully.”
Smylie was visibly gutted by his result – another sign of his inner drive given he has, at just 18, extraordinarily had three podium finishes on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia in four tournaments since late January.
The young Queenslander took an unplayable lie penalty on the 17th after his approach shot flew long and wrecked against a tree en route to a double-bogey that effectively ended his run.
“I’m hurting, but that’s golf,” Smylie said.
“I’m almost lost for words … but I’m incredibly proud of how I’ve conducted myself over these last few tournaments as a professional.
“(To not win) is hard, but I’ll bounce back and it will only be a little hole at the end of the day.
“It’s a setback, but it won’t impact me in the long term.”
Each took their metaphorical hats off to Macpherson, once the highly touted amateur all three have only recently been.
And, showing the wisdom of almost a decade on many of the world’s far-flung tours, Macpherson was quick to point out the bright futures ahead of the chasing pack.
“One of the themes of (these summer) tournaments was me feeling older. Now I’m 30, that doesn’t sound that old, but it is.
“I did like my chances because they are (all) new pros … but all these young kids are good players.”