New South Wales State Team representatives Chris Fan and Kelsey Bennett have battled brutal conditions at Commonwealth and Kingston Heath Golf Clubs to win the Port Phillip Open Amateur titles, the 72-hole precursor to this week’s Victorian Amateur.
Fan, no stranger to the winner’s dais at this event (he won it as an 18-year-old in 2018), conceded this event was amongst the most challenging conditions he has played in.
“It’s definitely right up there with the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in, but I think it was also the best I have ever hit my irons,” he said.
“I managed to hang in there, and did enough on the greens to get the job done.”
Fan’s total of 291 was two shots clear of Yarra Yarra’s Phoenix Campbell, with Heidelberg’s Toby Walker a further two shots off the pace in third place.
Bennett thought she was heading for a playoff after coming down the 18th late in the day, believing she was all tied with Metropolitan’s Jeneath Wong. However, the St Michael’s gun was a shot clear.
“I couldn’t believe it coming down the last, I thought Jeneath and I were all tied and I was really wanting to birdie the last and both of our birdie putts lipped out, then Jeneath congratulated me; I couldn’t believe it,” the Mollymook local admitted
Bennett’s final round one-over-par 75, for a 72-hole total of 299, was enough to claim the title by one from Wong, with Bennett’s good friend and roommate, Belinda Ji of Concord Golf Club, finishing third with a four-round total of 305.
It’s been a breakout twelve months for Bennett. Her Port Phillip win caps a sensation run of results, including victories in the NSW Stroke Play, the Tasmanian Open, the NT Amateur, and a stunning second-place finish in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship Abu Dhabi last month.
Both Fan and Bennett will start favourites in tomorrow’s opening matchplay rounds of the Victorian Amateur at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club.
Joining Fan in the men’s section of the knockout event is Jye Pickin and Jordie Garner, who will face off against one another, while NSW Country Champion Harry Bolton will face South Australian Jack Buchanan.
In what could be a thriller, current NSW Amateur Champion Andrew Richards will battle it out against fellow NSW Rep and freshly minted St Michael’s GC champion Harrison Crowe in the last match of the opening round.
Kelsey Bennett will face Bonnie Doon’s Ashleigh Arnold in the women’s opening round, while Yerin Kim will meet Queensland’s Sarah Wilson.
Strathfield’s Claire Shin will face local Alex Hilliard, and in an intriguing all-NSW Matchup, Belinda Ji will face off against NSW teammate and back-to-back Australian Golf Club Women’s Champion Stefanie Hall.