Tasmanian Simon Hawkes claimed a career-changing victory at the Oates Vic Open at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links.
Hawkes finished regulation play tied for the lead with New South Welshman Harrison Endycott on 14-under 274 thanks to a birdie on the 72nd hole. It then took just one playoff hole for the 29-year-old to record his first victory on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, for which he earned full status this year at qualifying school.
It’s a career-making moment as Hawkes will now head west for this week’s European Tour and Asian Tour tri-sanctioned ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth. He will also enjoy playing in Australia’s largest tournaments for the next three years.
“I’m just flabbergasted right now,” Hawkes said. “I kind of knew that I was playing well coming into the week.
“The thing about winning these sort of titles, they are forever. Every year people are going to look at that and my name is going to be on it and they are going to be looking at my name hopefully the same way I’m looking at some of these names right now, so it’s just unbelievable.”
He had the chance to finish the tournament in regulation with an eagle on the 18th hole however he eventually made birdie, forcing a playoff with Endycott.
“The playoff hole was exactly like regulation, same wind direction exact same shot – maybe just a little more right in regulation. Both of us probably didn’t hit the greatest shots in the bunker and then Harrison played a pretty good shot out,” Hawkes added. “I actually felt quite calm. For me I’d achieved beyond any expectations I set myself this week and I just thought whatever happened, it was going to be a bonus.”
Hawkes began the year with a goal of finishing high enough at qualifying school to see him safely in to most fields in the 2018 PGA Tour of Australasia season.
“I went to Q-School this year hopefully trying to get as much status as possible, then I looked at trying to get into Perth by finishing top-five there and fell short. Then my other option was to win one of the first two events and somehow it manifested that way, so it’s great.”
While Endycott finished runner-up, Queenslanders Anthony Quayle and Cory Crawford finished tied for third at 11-under the card. Local hope Ben Eccles made a charge up the leaderboard with a final round of seven-under 65 to share fifth place with Steven Jeffress at 10-under the card.
Victorians Matias Sanchez and Zach Murray were the highest finishing amateurs, tied for 24th at six-under the card.
For his win, Hawkes picks up $117,000 and moves to the top of the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
By Martin Blake, golf.org.au
Four years ago, Minjee Lee announced herself as a 17-year-old amateur in winning the Oates Vic Open. In 2018, she came in as a world-ranked player, the clear favourite, and performed precisely like that.
Lee began the final round with a one-shot lead and had stretched it to a five-shot win by the time she rolled in a birdie putt from just beyond a metre at the par-5 18th hole for a six-under par 67.
The 21-year-old from Perth gave her opposition no chance with a round that included five birdies, an eagle and just one blemish, at the par-4 eighth hole where she misjudged her approach and could not get up and down from behind the green.
Lee shot 13-under overall to win by five from 19-year-old Queenslander Karis Davidson, who was playing her first professional tournament, at eight-under. Perth’s Hannah Green and England’s Georgia Hall tied for third at seven-under.
But Lee was unstoppable, never once bothered by the fact she had a target on her back as the world No.20, highest-ranked in the field, and a past winner.
“I haven’t been in this situation too many times,’’ she said later. “I just went out and played my own game.
“I was a little bit nervous out there probably coming down the stretch, but I knew I had somewhat of a lead so I could just play. But most of the pressure I put on myself, so it was nice to come out with the win.’’
The women’s tournament was a massive tick for the elite amateur programs of this country with all three players in the final group – Lee, Davidson and Green – being Karrie Webb Scholarship holders, and none of them older than 21. Green has graduated to the LPGA Tour for 2018 while Davidson has her card to play on the Japanese LPGA Tour.
Davidson and Green, close friends from their amateur days, had a titanic battle for second place that went all the way to the 71st hole, where Green made bogey from a swale beside the green and Davidson made a solid par.
As much as it was a triumph for Lee as the winner, it was an astonishing professional tournament debut for 19-year-old Gold Coaster Davidson, who has only just turned pro after a fine amateur career during which she won a string of tournaments including the Riversdale Cup.
Davidson made par at the 18th to card a two-under par 71 and seal second place, worth $58,000 in prizemoney. Aside from the $300 she won in a pro-am last week, it is her first cheque, a notion she found “a bit crazy’’.
But it was plainly Lee’s day, the three-time LPGA Tour winner continuing the form she had displayed all week, particularly in her bogey-free opening two rounds. Yesterday she put the hammer down at the par-5 fifth hole with an awesome 3-wood second shot from just beyond 200 metres that landed on the front fringe of the green and trickled up to just inside two metres from the flag.
It was the thunderclap that really ended the tournament. The eagle putt trickled in via the edge of the cup and the margin was four, and while Davidson in particular made a couple of charges, neither she nor Green could get back within three shots for the rest of the day.
“I separated myself a little bit there but a lot of the holes are birdie chances,’’ Lee said. “From that moment I thought they could catch up to me, so I kept playing.’’
Chances to close the gap came and went. At the short par-5 14th, for instance, both Green and Davidson hit the green in two while Lee was off the front fringe. But each of the challengers three-putted from long range while Lee two-putted for birdie to increase the buffer. Another birdie at the short par-4 15th drew a fist pump from her, as time ran out for the others.
Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall closed with a seven-under par 66 as did Thai Prima Thammaraks in conditions that were much easier than previous afternoons.
As for Lee, she is in the midst of a five-tournament stretch that goes through Canberra this week, to Adelaide for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and then on to Asia. She believes the victory today will spur her.
“I decided to play Vic Open and Canberra next week prior to the Aussie Open because I wanted to feel readier than any other year,’’ she said. “I think it’s a great confidence-booster to have had a win here so hopefully I can carry it on to the next two weeks, and my season.’’