HAYES: A Star is Born

David Tease
March 8, 2024

Golf only rarely has truly explosive moments; even less frequent are prolonged periods of pandemonium.

But what happened today at Bathurst Golf Club might require a new thesaurus.

The final round of the Women’s New South Wales Open regional qualifier was rolling along perfectly to script through the first few holes.

Tearaway teen Ella Scaysbrook, fresh from a great bogey-free opening round on a course she had won at as a junior, was looking decidedly polished as her experienced rivals’ fortunes waxed and waned.

She had just hit the front through the fourth when Tunrada Piddon promptly stepped to the par-3 fifth tee and proceeded to slam dunk her fourth career ace.

Scaysbrook’s heart sunk. What an extraordinary and maybe even cruel way for her bubble to burst.

She needn’t have worried.

An answering birdie on the seventh was the pre-quake tremor of what was to follow.

What many thought might be the big rattler reverberated around the clubhouse precinct when Scaysbrook bottler an eagle putt up the ninth.

But again, more was to follow.

She calmly rolled her second successive eagle putt on the 10th – scarcely believable composure for someone still with bleary eyes from her recent 18th birthday, jointly celebrated by selection to her first senior state team.

But wait, there’s more!

Piddon, 23, freshly a pro herself having had a great collegiate career at the University of Central Florida, then had a second eagle of her own round when she holed out a pitching wedge on the short par-4 11th.

Seriously, what the…?

Four eagles in seven holes in the same group!

But Scaysbrook wasn’t done herself. She resolutely knocked in her own birdie putt on that same hole, then chipped in on the 12th from 30m out to play a four-hole stretch in six under! Yes, you read that correctly.

Piddon backed away, but wouldn’t retreat. She coolly hit back with a short birdie on the 15th, then exploded with two more bombs on the 16th and 17th to draw back level.

It’s hard to recall a more entertaining two-woman shootout over such an extended period – maybe an epic Solheim Cup clash? Maybe?

As it would later turn out, Scaysbrook was so in tune with her swing that even in the middle of the Thai’s furious rally, she was processing information that would ultimately bring her victory.

The Novocastrian had watched almost in disbelief when her pitch to the 15th hole flew over the pin but then spun back 20m to eventually lead to her only bogey of the tournament.

Similarly, her approach to the final hole nearly dunked the cup (of course it did!), but spun back hard to a point where her attempt at winning with one last birdie would come up a roll short up the hill.

And for all of the special ball striking Scaysbrook displayed throughout, it was the resultant mental readjustment that proved the difference.

First time up the playoff hole – again the 18th – she took a leap of faith and intentionally flew the ball 106m, rather than the 100m she was from the pin.

Think about that for a second.

She’s 18. An amateur against the pros. With a decent gallery. About to qualify for her state Open championship.

And Scaysbrook had the mental agility to match her physical prowess to pull the winning rein.

It didn’t come on the first playoff hole, although that shot spun back to inside 50cm.

Naturally, though, Piddon rolled in another bomb to send them back up the fairway for a repeat.

This time from 96m, Scaysbrook flew it about 101m and the ball fizzed back just past the hole, again flirting with eagle.

Calmly, though, after seeing Piddon finally miss her own putt, Scaysbrook sealed the deal.

The two women had combined for four eagles and 10 birdies in the final 16 holes they played. Their bestball score through 18 holes was 15 under!

Seriously, what the…???

Piddon was super impressed with her rival’s game.

“I played good today. Really good, actually,” she said.

“But not as good as her. That was really nice golf.

“I don’t think I could have done that like her (at age 18). That was a lot of pressure to play the only amateur in a group with all pros and you’re in the lead, I don’t think I could have handled that at all.”

So what’s the secret? What is the reason that so many people left Bathurst Golf Club today convinced they’d seen the emergence of a genuine star of the future?

Scaysbrook, by her own admission, was “not good friends with school” even though she completed Year 12 at Macquarie College last year.

But the application she says she lacked in the classroom clearly has shifted across to golf.

Scaysbrook couldn’t say the name “John Novak” enough in her acceptance speeches, crediting the Sydney mind coach for helping shape her game almost as much as the thousands of hours she’s spent bashing balls.

“That was a hell of a round,” she admitted.

“I’m really proud of how I played because I’ve been working really hard, especially with John.

“He teaches me how to stay calm and react in those kind of situations or, if something isn’t going so well, how I can react better.

“I’m getting better at it – I put it into practice routines so (it becomes second nature). If I do a putting drill, I’ll put his lesson into what I do with that so I know how to deal with it if I get in that pressure situation on course.

“It’s hard to do, definitely the hardest part of the game … much tougher than hitting a big drive at (a key moment).

“It takes a lot of work to move on from a bad break or a bad hole and I feel like a lot of people can’t do it that well, so to be able to have that makes your golf game a lot better.”

Remember, she’s just 18.

A 65 to win your first professional tournament against a global field will tell you that Scaysbrook has “game”.

Her power on course is already pronounced in comparison to her older rivals and presumably will only develop further.

But oh, what her old teachers must be thinking now.

The softly-spoken blonde girl who couldn’t care less about being in their (insert subject here) class, is a rapidly developing into a mental powerhouse.

You can’t help but think that if her between-the-ears game matches her between-the-shoulders game as it did today, Bathurst has just introduced a new shooting star to the golfing galaxy.

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