Sydney’s Ann Jang and New Zealander Zack Swanwick are the Australian Junior Amateur champions for 2023.
Jang, 15, who plays out of New South Wales Golf Club, retained the lead she first took on day two of the championships and played steady golf to win the girls’ championship by four shots at Tasmania Golf Club yesterday.
Swanwick, 17, from Napier Golf Club on New Zealand’s North Island, began the final round with a three-shot lead and closed with a two-under par 70 to win by four shots. He was never headed on the final day.
In both cases it is their biggest victory in amateur golf so far and both will be given a start in the 2023 ISPS Handa Australian Open with the opportunity to play against professionals on the big stage.
Jang was the 2021 New South Wales Junior Amateur champion while Swanwick has been a multiple winner in his home country.
The 15-year-old Jang, who emigrated from South Korea with her family when she was 11, now lives in Cherrybrook in north-western Sydney and will take up a spot at Endeavour Sports High School later this year to further her considerable talent.
Her scores of 71-67-73-72 put her at nine-under par overall but it was not until the final hole, the par-three 18th, that she knew she had the championship in her keeping.
Eunseo Choi from Takapuna in New Zealand was next best at five-under par, having bogeyed the 18th.
“I knew that I had the lead, but I was nervous right to the last hole,” she said.
“It feels unreal. It’s so exciting. I’m so happy. There was a bit of pressure because she (Choi) is so good. But I tried to do what I needed to do, stay focused on my ball and not on the score.”
Victoria’s Molly McLean completed a good week with a closing 71 to finish tied third at two-under par with Queensland’s Haruhi Nakatani (74).
For Swanwick, it will be a flight back to a New Zealand and final-year classes at Taradale High School this week. The gifted young player also has to prepare for his stint at the University of Florida in 2024 on a golf scholarship.
Today the Kiwi kept himself ahead but like Jang, never felt comfortable until the very last hole.
“All the stress has gone now,” he said. “I can finally breathe.”
Swanwick was threatened by Queenslander Kai Komulainen, playing in the same group, both boys making eagle at the par-5 14th hole to separate themselves.
At one point on the back nine the margin was just two shots, but the New Zealander proved steadier down the stretch, and when he saw a leaderboard on the 18th tee, he realised that he was four shots ahead of Komulainen. A tee shot inside two metres at the par-3 18th helped his nerves. “That kind of sealed the deal,” he said.
“I was just out there having fun this week. If I’m not having fun, I get too stressed. So I think the key for me was that I was able to enjoy it and take in the nice weather.”
Swanwick said he only became aware of his Australian Open start (at The Australian in Sydney this year) after his win today. “I’ve been told that. I’m pretty happy about it,” he said.
His scores of 72-67-65-70 were enough for an emphatic win from Western Australia’s Joseph Buttress, who flew home with a 69 to finish second at 10-under par, and Komulainen finished outright third at nine-under.