Jeffrey Guan has claimed back-to-back Australian Junior Amateur titles courtesy of a pair of last gasp birdies at The Vines of Reynella in South Australia this afternoon.
After starting the final round three shots clear, the day wasn’t quite the coronation procession many expected for Guan, and for a moment or two, it looked like the national junior crown could have been heading west.
With holes running out, Guan had to dig deep as western Australian Joseph Buttress, playing in the group ahead of the defending champ, grabbed a share of the lead with three holes to play.
Guan, however, reclaimed the ascendancy with a pair of clutch birdies at 16 and 17; the move proving to be the tournament’s defining moment.
“I saw on the leaderboard that I was one back with a couple to play. At that point, I kind of had to focus a bit more on my game.”
“I had to try to work out how to get more birdies to fight my way back up the leaderboard. I’m pretty happy that I did that,” the 17-year-old said.
Due to COVID, Guan missed out on getting the chance to play in the Australian Open last year, and he is over the moon to secure his place in this year’s field.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’ll be really special to me as it’s one of the biggest, most prestigious events,” he added.
Guan, who won the Adam Scott Junior Championship in California earlier this year, said he got to spend some time with the 2013 Masters champion, and he would love to get to know him better as a colleague.
“It’d be really special. It was an honour to play in his tournament, and he was really just a kind, genuine bloke. I look forward to meeting him in the lines this time, not outside,” he grinned.
Besides Scott and himself, Ryan Ruffels and Grant Waite are the other two males to defend their Australian Junior crowns, and Guan wants to ensure that the trend of back-to-back winners from this event reaching the heights of the PGA Tour continues.
“It’s definitely where I want to be one day. I’d definitely love to be on the PGA Tour,” he said.
In the Girl’s division, Malaysia’s Jenneath Wong held her nerve to claim victory over a fast-finishing Sarah Hammett.
Wong birdied 16 and 18 to stave off the Hammet charge, cruising to a three-shot win.
Like Guan, Wong was forced to hold her nerve as the pressure rose through the day, admitting a return to a simple approach was the decisive shift in strategy that helped her to the title.
“I was kind of nervous after doubling because Sarah and I got a bit closer. I started to play a bit calmer and not go for the pin as much and it came back,” she said.
Wong, who plays most of her golf out of MEtropolitan GC in Melbourne’s sandbelt, has been prolific on the junior circuit. She has won the last seven World Amateur Golf Ranking junior events she has played in and was thrilled to capitalise on the last chance she will get to play a national junior event.
“I’m really excited and happy considering this is my last year playing this event so I’m really happy that I won,” she said.
“It really is the icing on the cake. I haven’t been playing that well in the last few weeks but this tournament I’ve improved quite a bit so I’m very happy.”
The next step in her journey is already locked in. After graduating this year, Wong will move to California to study and play collegiate golf at Pepperdine University – the college Katherine Kirk attended.
Before that, she’ll get to play with her heroes at the Women’s Australian Open later in the year.
“I’m really excited to learn from the pros. It’ll be a good experience,” she said.
“It’d be really cool to play with Minjee Lee. It’d be like a dream come true considering she’s my idol so it’d be really cool to play with her.”