[PHOTO: Nick Wall]

The Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia and WPGA Tour of Australasia seasons roll on, this week heading north of Sydney to the famed wine and food region of the Hunter Valley.

Now in its third year, the Webex Players Series Hunter Valley is hosted by a pair of Australian golf legends in Jan Stephenson and Peter O’Malley, with Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort once again welcoming a tremendous field.

Finally getting the chance to show off its best side after the two previous tournaments were hampered by heavy rain, the course is becoming familiar for the tour’s regulars, even more so for those who competed in Jack Newton Junior Golf events here as youngsters.

“I know it really, really well. I’ve played here at least a good 20, 30 times. It’s a great place, I love coming back here, it’s always so nice,” Harrison Crowe said.

Crowe arrives off the back of a share of sixth at the Webex Players Series Sydney, where the rookie professional played in the last group alongside LPGA Tour winner Jenny Shin, but was unable to halt the hat-trick run of Kazuma Kobori.

“Obviously, it wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go. I feel like I played alright, and honestly a couple of unlucky breaks, I don’t really like saying that,” Crowe said.

Spending time with coach John Serhan on the putting green last Friday evening after a frustrating day with the flatstick, Crowe noted the pressure putts failing to drop placed on the rest of his game last week. Something he was looking to address upon arrival in the Hunter region, where he spent significant time on the putting green.

“I know there is a lot of good stuff in there, just be patient for the putts to start dropping. I need Kazuma to give me some of his juice,” he said looking over at Kobori, who, like Crowe, spent most of Tuesday afternoon on the putting green in an ominous sign for the rest of the field.

Although working hard on his game, Crowe is also on something of a working holiday this week, with girlfriend Anna arriving from America on Sunday and taking the trip north with the former New South Wales Open winner to fulfil a slightly unfamiliar role this week.

“I know it’s still golf and I will put in the work I need to put in, but it will be nice having a break from everything. I will have her on the bag this week, so it will be a fun little change… got to make sure I behave myself.”

Crowe mentioning a Valentine’s Day dinner plan and exploring the Hunter as part of the attraction to playing this week, which was also a strategic choice playing at home rather than utilising his new Asian Tour card at the Malaysian Open.

“Just trying to finish well in the Order of Merit here, for starters. I know I will have a big year ahead in Asia and obviously want to kind of have a nice line-up and heading into the New Zealand Open that will probably be my first event,” he said.

Also with an eye towards the New Zealand Open, Kobori will again be one to watch this week as he attempts to win a fourth Webex Players Series title in 2024 and go one better than sister Momoka, who lost in a playoff to Aaron Pike here in 2022.

“I played [in the] Jack Newton actually back in I want to say 2018, and I narrowly lost to Hayden Hopewell by two. Got good vibes around this place,” Kobori said of Cypress Lakes.

Among the WPGA Tour of Australasia contingent, there is similarly plenty of course experience from junior golf and the previous two years, while Vic Open winner Ashley Lau will conclude her Australian trip at the venue where her fellow champion from 13th Beach, Brett Coletta, will defend his title.

A strong local presence also in the field, including Corey Lamb, who works in the pro shop at Cypress Lakes, and amateurs Jake Riley, Jye Pickin and Ella Scaysbrook, who was the junior winner at this event in 2021.

The only place to watch every upcoming event on the PGA Tour of Australasia live is on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.

Round 3: Saturday, 4pm-7pm (AEDT)
Round 4: Sunday, 2pm-7pm (AEDT)

2022: Aaron Pike
2023: Brett Coletta

61, Brett Coletta (round 4, 2023)

Steve Smyers (1992)

Kazuma Kobori, three-time 2024 Webex Players Series winner
Ashley Lau, 2024 Vic Open winner
Brett Coletta, 2024 Vic Open winner and defending champion
Kelsey Bennett, 14th on 2023 LET Access Series Order of Merit
Harrison Crowe, 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur and 2022 NSW Open winner
Justice Bosio, World No.65-ranked amateur and T-13 at Webex Players Series Sydney
Jake McLeod, 2018 Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner
Ella Scaysbrook, 2022 Webex Players Series Hunter Valley Junior winner