29 Oct 2023 | Amateur golf |
AAC golf: Stubbs seizes major opportunities
by Martin Blake
Melburnian Jasper Stubbs has earned himself life-changing starts in the Open Championship and the Masters in 2024 after he won a dramatic playoff victory in the Asia-Pacific Championship at Royal Melbourne.
Just before 5.30pm on the 18th green of the famous Composite course, the 21-year-old Stubbs tapped in a short par putt at the second playoff hole to beat China’s Wenyi Ding, who had moments earlier lipped out with his three-metre par putt.
Stubbs, who is in the Golf Australia High Performance programs, earns a start in the Masters tournament next April, the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July 2024, and the R&A Amateur Championship in June at Ballyliffin in Ireland as spoils of his victory.
He is the second consecutive Australian winner of the AAC after Harrison Crowe’s triumph in Thailand last year.
“That’s just life-changing,” he said afterward.
“My golf today proves that belief takes you a long way.”
The young man from Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club produced a stellar last two hours of golf to clinch it today.
Having started the final round six shots back from the leader, China’s Yunhe Zheng, Stubbs was heading nowhere when he slipped to 2-over par for the day through six holes. He was seven back at one point.
But Zheng began to show signs of stress, making a double bogey 6 at the par-4 second, and the players in the chasing pack saw a sliver of a chance.
And Stubbs was up for it. He birdied the seventh, the 11th and the 13th to get within two shot, and by the time he made a bomb for birdie at the par-5 17th, he was only a shot behind Zheng.
Soon afterward, Zheng messed up the 17th finding a cross bunker, made bogey, and for the first time all day Stubbs, who would make a solid par at the tough 18th hole, had a share of the lead with the two Chinese players.
Stubbs carded a 2-under 69 and his back nine of 33 was top shelf in the circumstances.
Ultimately it came down to a three-player playoff between Stubbs, Ding and Zheng on the 18th, all three of them at 1-over par overall – the highest winning score in the tournament’s history.
There had not been a single birdie all day at that difficult par-4, as the players fought back into the southerly wind and confronted a tricky, back-right pin placement.
But Stubbs was pumped up. Having hit a lovely iron to five metres beyond the flag, he rolled in the birdie putt to the roars of a partisan crowd, including his 12 Australian teammates beside the green.
Then Ding, a metre closer, rammed his birdie putt home as well meaning that the pair of them would head back to the 18th tee without Zheng, whose par was not good enough.
Stubbs hit the green again at the second playoff hole, but he had a left-to-righter from 12 metres away which he curled down to tap-in range, a great piece of composure in itself.
Ding found the right greenside trap, caught a bad lie, and missed with his par attempt meaning that the Australian had a moment to cherish.
He was doused with champagne by his teammates a few moments later.
Four Australians played their way into the top 10 today – Stubbs, Max Charles who finished tied-fourth, Billy Dowling who played in the last group but fell away with a 78 to finish 10th, and Jeff Guan (ninth).
Charles was the hard-luck story, his long birdie putt at the 72nd hole burning the cup as it ran by.
Had it gone in, he would have been in a playoff.
But it was Stubbs’ day, unequivocally.
The Victorian has been on the radar for some time now, an outstanding junior and the 2022 New Zealand Amateur champion, blessed with a picture-perfect swing and a fighter’s mentality.
He knew his way around Royal Melbourne having played so often with his mates there and with his sister, Piper, an RM member who is on a golf scholarship in the US now.
He had a vastly experienced professional caddie with intimate Sandbelt knowledge in Simon Clarke.
And he stayed in the game right to the end.
"The Masters is everything every kid dreams of," he said. "It's the one tournament every golfer wants to play in his life, and now that it's a reality, I am speechless. It was always a dream. Now it's a reality I don't know what it's going to look like. "I'm just excited for April now and also for the Open. I've been in the UK and tried to qualify for that championship before and now that I'm exempt in there it's going to be pretty nice to go over there and see how I go." THE AUSTRALIANS AT THE AAC +1 Jasper Stubbs 1st 68-74-74-69 – 285 +2 Max Charles T4 + 7 Jeff Guan 9th + 8 Billy Dowling 10th +10 Connor McDade T12 +11 Quinnton Croker T19 +14 Lucas Michel T28 + 17 Jye Pickin T39 +18 Harry Takis T41 +19 Jack Buchanan T45 +20 Jake Riley, Connor Fewkes T48 MC Harry Bolton
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