He will finish 2020 with a winning record the envy of Tiger Woods and it was a roar-inducing putt on the second-to-last hole that effectively clinched rising amateur Hayden Hopewell the 2020 Nexus Risk WA Open title at Royal Fremantle Golf Club.
Starting the day two shots adrift of overnight leader Brody Martin, Hopewell stumbled out of the gates with an opening bogey but defied Royal Fremantle’s brutal finish to birdie 16, 17 and 18 to claim a one-shot win at his home club from fellow amateur Haydn Barron with Martin a shot further behind in third.
Midway through the third and final round, Martin looked to be well in control with a two-shot advantage at the turn but both Hopewell and Barron applied late pressure to edge to the top of the leaderboard.
Barron’s birdie at the par-5 closing hole tied Hopewell at six-under to raise the possibility of a playoff but only briefly, Hopewell answering with a birdie of his own, two-putting from 20 feet to claim his first ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia tournament win.
Smarting from a bogey at the par-4 ninth, the 18-year-old rattled off six birdies over his closing nine holes but it was the shot he picked up at the par-3 17th that proved most decisive. All week players had struggled to hold the green of the 175-metre 17th but once he did, Hopewell had the self-confidence to step forward and make one when it mattered most.
“I had a feeling I was going to hole it,” Hopewell said of his birdie putt from 23 feet.
“I actually turned to my sister Ariel and said, ‘Of course this is going to go in,’ and rolled that one in for birdie. That was probably the biggest moment of the tournament, to take a one-shot lead going to the last.
“It was the fastest putt on the course, in front of all the crowd and they gave it a good roar so I was quite chuffed with that one.”
The 18-year-old joins an elite list of WA Open winners including a host of amateurs who have progressed to the professional ranks in recent years such as Zach Murray (2018), Curtis Luck (2016) and Oliver Goss (2012). West Australian legends Stephen Leaney (1991) and Terry Gale (1975) also won their state Open before graduating to the professional ranks.
Twelve months ago Hopewell shot to prominence by winning the inaugural Junior 6s Invitational staged by former touring professional Ewan Porter and featuring prominently on the leaderboard of the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club. After wins earlier in the year at the Tasmanian Open and West Australian Amateur, this latest victory is his third in his past five starts in a disrupted 2020 season but Hopewell insists his latest triumph won’t fast-track his plans to turn professional.
“It’s a great stepping stone,” said Hopewell, who was runner-up to Michael Sim at the 2019 WA Open. “It reinforces the confidence within my game, in myself. “It doesn’t change anything with my timeline of turning pro but this is a good stepping stone. It’s one I wanted to win.
“Last year I had a two-shot lead going into the last round and it was a bit of a different mindset. I had to hold on and play solid golf but this year I was two behind and thought I had to give it my all, leave nothing in the tank. It was more of an aggressive mindset and it paid off.”
It wasn’t only a thrilling finish to the WA Open, a birdie at the final hole securing Melville Glades member Tony Coates the 2020 WA Open All Abilities crown. Starting the second round one shot behind Lake Karrinyup’s Nicholas Panos, Coates saved his best to the very final hole, his lone birdie of the day enough to edge Panos by a shot with Gary Brocket a further shot behind in third.