Former Test cricketer and current Channel Nine commentator Ian Healy smashes a drive over the fairway bunker at the par-four 10th at The Lakes, and up near the green. Healy is playing with Tom Watson, bona fide legend of the game, who has popped a safe long iron shot into the fairway.
This is pro-am day at the Emirates Australian Open, a day when the hackers (not to mention decent players like Healy) get to mix it with the professionals. Everyone’s even, well up to a point.
The pro-am is a competition, with one pro in each group of four. It’s a team event, with the pro meant to provide the stability and the solid pars and the occasional birdie, and the amateurs supposed to make a few fluky shots.
But it does not always work out like this. Adam Scott, the top-ranked Australian, dunked two tee shots into the water at the par-five 11th hole today.
He then dropped twice at the point of entry, aimed at the green 200 metres or so away, and dunked another two in the drink. Scott, playing with three executives from the tournament sponsor Emirates, ended up holding the flag on the green for his playing partners.
Pro-am day is very egalitarian like that. Amateurs have been known to outplay the pro, though rarely. They have also been known to spray a few golf balls around at awkward angles, and it can be dangerous at times. Still, invitations are keenly sought after.
It also generally includes a few celebrities and stars from other sports. Sydney Swans’ premiership hero Nick Malceski was out on the course today, along with Healy.
There was a morning and an afternoon competition yesterday, and the winds were up. The par-four 1st hole, which requires a water carry, was playing brutishly hard back into the 40 to 50 km/h breeze.
Today’s morning pro-am was won by The Star team of Craig Parry, Henry Sayers, Ahn Minh Mai and Jin Liew with a net 62, on countback from the Emirates team of Adam Scott, Matthew Hickey, Paul Christie and Bede Hendren.
Joel Monahan of the Coca-Cola team hit the longest drive for an 18-plus handicapper, and Craig Garvin from Golf Australia recorded the longest for a 1-17 handicapper.
A team led by recently-elevated PGA Tour player Steven Bowditch won the afternoon pro-am. Bowditch was joined by Kevin Chandler, Michael Joseph and Ian Dickings.