Taking a leaf from the book of compatriot Jason Day, Kelsey Bennett recovered from a rocky start to emerge triumphant in the fourth edition of the Faldo Series Australia Championship.
In a recent interview, highly-rated 18-year-old Bennett named former world number one Day as her most inspiring sporting figure, citing how he fought his way to the top through considerable adversity.
And Day himself would have been proud of the battling qualities displayed by Bennett over the new-look layout at Castle Hill Country Club in the 12th leg of the 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season.
Having run-up a quadruple-bogey nine at the fifth hole and a double-bogey seven at 18 en route to an opening 76 at the realigned layout, Bennett found herself languishing down the leaderboard – and seemingly out of contention.
However, returning to the Sydney venue with a steely determination and clear mind for the gruelling 36-hole final-day examination, Bennett soared into third place courtesy of a second-round 66.
With the momentum now in her favour, Bennett displayed the form that earned her a spot in the New South Wales Women’s State Team, maintaining her focus to close out with a 70.
That gave her a three-round total of 212, two-over, with the course playing as a par-70 for girls.
Overall runner-up was big-hitting left-hander Bryce Pickin whose aggregate of 207 was three-over as the boys were playing the course as a par-68.
Pickin, who negotiated the front nine in five-under 28 in a second round 67, had the consolation of winning the Boys’ Under-21 division. As such, he will join Bennett in the Australian team at the 13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lang Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam in March, 2019.
Also making the trip will be Josh Fuller (Boys’ Under-18 winner), Harry Peterson (Boys’ Under-16 winner) and Singaporean Shannon Tan (Girls’ Under-16 winner).
It was an especially commendable effort from Tan, who was close to withdrawing following the first round after suffering from heat exhaustion.
There was disappointment, however, for Bella Kil and Markopolo Fullepp, who failed in their attempts to qualify for the Grand Final.
Fullepp, beaten at the seventh hole of an epic play-off at last year’s Faldo Series Czech Republic Championship in Europe, dropped seven strokes over the opening seven holes in the first round and never challenged.
For her part, Castle Hill Country Club member Kil led after 36 holes, two ahead of Pickin and three clear of Bennett. But her hopes quickly unravelled in the final round when she covered the first four holes in six-over, signing off with a 77.
Consolation for Kil came during her second round 68 which was highlighted by a hole-in-one at the 112-metre 12th. Also acing the same hole was Joel Wheatley.
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.<
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners, while Thidapa Suwannapura (2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) and Nasa Hataoka (2016 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) have both won on the LPGA Tour this year.
Faldo Series Australia Championship, leading final scores: Boys’ Under-21: 207 – Bryce Pickin (69-67-71). 215 – Thomas Gill (70-70-75). 220 – Dino Degotardi (79-72-69). Boys’ Under-18: 212 – Josh Fuller (72-71-69). 214 – Lachlan Chamberlain (77-68-69). 216 – Camran Walton (71-75-70). Boys’ Under-16: 212 – Harry Peterson (68-72-72). 221 – Jeff Pullen (73-75-73). 223 – Max Duffy-Smith (78-71-74).Girls’ Under-21: 212 – Kelsey Bennett (76-66-70). 216 – Bella Kil (71-68-77). 219 – Lucy Harris (72-72-75). Girls’ Under-16: 220 – Shannon Tan (72-72-76). 232 – Jasmine Driscoll (76-74-82).