Vasquez, Bunque savour the cruel beauty of defeat

Tony Webeck | PGA
April 2, 2023

The beauty of opportunity is that it means something different to each of those who seek to grasp it.

As the Australian Women’s Classic moved into its final nine holes at Bonville Golf Resort on Sunday, the leaderboard was an eclectic mix of contenders.

Her opening tee shot that found the water on one all but sunk the hopes of experienced Ladies European Tour player Lydia Hall; Avondale amateur June Song turned heads when she reached eight-under on her round at the 14th hole and threatened to post a number.

Last week’s Women’s NSW Open winner Momoka Kobori gave the leaders cause to look in the rear-view mirror and emerging amateur stars Belinda Ji and Sarah Hammett each edged toward the top of the leaderboard.

But with four holes to play it was a race in three for a trio of players in very different places in their careers.

Stephanie Bunque turned pro in 2021 to significant fanfare and initial promise; Danni Vasquez was a contemporary of Stephanie Kyriacou and Grace Kim who is now just five assignments from completing the PGA’s Membership Pathway Program at the South Coast Golf Centre; 42-year-old Breanna Gill works full-time for Willoughby City Council and has let go of her dream of playing overseas.

A win for either would mean very different things; the ultimate result leaving just as many questions as answers.

For Gill, her victory over Vasquez at the first playoff hole represented the realisation of a dream she thought would remain just that.

Not only that, the curling, downhill three-foot putt for par on the 18th hole was the final torture test for someone who has openly battled the dreaded yips.

“A downhill left-to-righter that breaks a foot from three foot, that’s definitely been my kryptonite in the past,” admitted Gill, who will ask for an extra day off work before reporting back for duty on Tuesday.

An itch that needed to be scratched put Vasquez in position for what would have been her first win on the WPGA Tour of Australasia.

Rather than shelving the sticks and cramming for her final five assignments at the end of 2022, Vasquez permitted herself one last shot, and must now consider how to balance life as a PGA Professional without saying goodbye to tour life for good.

“This experience definitely alters the thoughts about playing a little bit,” admitted Vasquez, who had PGA Professional fiancé Darcy Boyd on the bag this week.

“I knew the last few weeks I had something in me but it just didn’t click all at once. I was grinding it out, grinding it out and I was training with a mental coach and just needed to be patient.

“I just said to Darcy, ‘On the last day, let’s just give myself an opportunity.’ And I did exactly that so I’m really happy.”

Although a three-putt from the fringe on the final hole was not how Bunque wanted the day to end, her third-place finish one shot out of the playoff was a reminder of the potential that can still be harvested.

She begrudgingly admitted to seeing the beauty of the grind – “Yeah, sure” – as she continually dragged herself up from the canvas with clutch putts down the stretch to stay in the hunt, none better than a 35-footer from just off the green for par at the par-5 14th.

It showed that even short of her best is still more than competitive and will provide a spark of inspiration when she clocks on for her first day working in the pro shop at Freeway Golf Club in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in contention and the way I hung in there for the entire 18 holes is something that I’m very proud of,” said Bunque.

“Hanging in tough is going to do everyone good in the long run.

“I’m grateful for all that’s happened.”

For Bunque and Vascquez it may feel like an opportunity missed but, in time, it may prove to be exactly how it was supposed to play out.

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