A withering comeback from the men’s top seed Declan O’Donovan and a pair of surprise wins in the Women’s Division from Amy Squires and Sophie Epplestun were highlights of the opening day of matchplay in the NSW Amateur at Belmont Golf Club.
In the men’s, top seed O’Donovan remains on track to add another title to his NSW Medal and Avondale Amateur win. He had to do it the hard way in the afternoon round of 16 against his Avondale club mate, Riley Millers.
Three down after nine, O’Donovan dug deep on the homeward stretch to claw his way back into the contest. The 20-year-old went eagle-par-birdie-par over the last four holes to get back to all-square before sealing the deal with a birdie on the second hole for sudden death.
“It seems like I’m the comeback king,” O’Donovan grinned. I made one of the best birdies I’ve made in a long while on 17. I got a little lucky on 18, and I two-putted.”
“I don’t like losing, and being down early on was frustrating, but I can play some pretty good golf when I have to, and I did it this afternoon.
O’Donovan added that the matchplay format was a great chance to learn about his game and how he reacts in pressure situations.
“I’ve learnt I tighten up a little when playing matchplay; some folk loosen up a bit, knowing they can make doubles & triples, and it only costs them one hole, but I find myself thinking about where my opponents are quite a bit, so I find it’s best to think I’m out there just playing by myself.
Several other hopefuls advanced to tomorrow’s quarters with varying results. 2022 NSW Junior Champion Coby Carruthers of Concord had it more challenging than most, with his morning and afternoon contests going extra holes.
Carruthers needed 20 holes to end his Concord teammate Blake Phillips’s tournament. Then, in the afternoon match, he was forced to go down the 19th against a plucky Billy Flanagan after an ill-timed bogey on the 18th.
St. Michael’s Jeff Pullen needed two extra holes to account for Sam Cascio in the morning round. Like Carruthers, he survived a scare late in the round of 16, squandering a three-hole lead on the back nine before settling with a clutch birdie on the par-three 16th. The vital late birdie proved enough, with Pullen making it through to the quarters for the first time.
Samuel Mukherjee won by one hole over Jack Phillips. The four-time Scotland Boy’s representative and Duke University Commit finished birdie-par to secure his quarter-final spot.
NSW Country Champion Andrew Kirkman, the oldest payer in the knockout phase, accounted for Moore Park’s Andrew Boaz 3/2 before cruising to an easy win over The Australian Golf Club’s 4/2.
Harrison Glenday, who scraped into the matchplay phase in last night’s sudden-death playoff, took out the second seed, Lachie Jones, with an impressive 5/3 win in the morning round. He and Ethan Harvey, who won his morning match 3/1, staged a no-holds-barred battle for 18 holes.
Glenday proved to be the man of the moment, holing a clutch birdie on the last for the match.
Kayun Mudundana cruised to a 2/1 win over Warren Sellors and
in the final men’s contest of the afternoon, a mid-round run of three birdies in four holes proved enough for the impressive Vidur Subramanium in his afternoon match against Ed Proctor, eventually cruising to a 3/2 win.
Lee Leads the way on a day of surprises
Avondale’s Rachel Lee was made to work hard in her two-up win against a spirited Yerin Kim, but she is still the player to beat with the Women’s NSW Amateur.
Several other players, however, will be left scratching their heads and wondering what if, after a brace of young hopefuls grabbed some surprise wins.
Local hope Amy Squires is one such surprise packet after claiming victory over Indonesia’s Reicherin Hanslkie.
Squires fought back from two down early, winning a brace of holes on the way home for a 2/1 win.
“I had to slap myself in the face because I was playing terribly at the start.
” I knew I only had to make pars to win holes and the fact I wasn’t doing it annoyed me.”
The Port Stephens teenager said her coach, Mark Ingrey’s words from a range session the day before jolted her mindset back onto the right path.
“He told me I needed to feel more confident with my golf swing.
“It worked, then my putting suddenly got better, and I felt a lot more confident coming home over the last nine holes.”
Squires admitted confidence is a big part of her game, and she strives to take it to the first every time she plays.
“It’s a thought I like to take to the tee every time I play.
“the more confident you are the more likely you are to win, but you never know what’s going to happen,” she grinned.
In the pick of the other contests, Catalina Surprise packet Sophie Epplestun claimed a big scalp in the 2023 NSW State Team Co-captain Belinda Ji, winning one-up.
Lara Thomsen fought back from a two-hole deficit to win 2/1 over Michelle Yang. She admitted that the win came with just a touch of help from her younger sister, Mimi, who worked as her caddie.
“I was pretty frustrated with my putting early, but I asked her to look at a couple of putts, and it seemed to work.
“She is my younger sister and I won’t admit I take her advice all the time, but sometimes it works,” she smiled.
In the other contests, Annabel Hutchings rolled in a final-hole birdie to defeat Sophie Perkins, Sienna Clarke defeated Erica Tan, 2/1 while Rebecca Zhao defeated Camilla Kim, one up.
Ella Scaysbrook could be forgiven for thinking what might have been in her loss to Godiva Kim, going down to the Quuenslader on the 19th hole.