17 Oct 2022 | Professional golf |
Becker returns to defend WA Open crown
By Brendan Barrett, Golf WA
Just six months after a breakthrough win in the Nexus Advisernet WA Open, Mandurah’s Braden Becker returns to defend a title he won in unique circumstances at Royal Fremantle in April. He’s also desperate to prove that his maiden ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia was no fluke.
Becker will tee it up in the 2022 Nexus Advisernet WA open against a strong field of touring professionals, PGA club professionals and a large contingent of elite amateurs at the testing par-70 West Australian Golf Club in Yokine from 20-23 October.
As with every player in the field, Becker will welcome a bit of good fortune; though the 29-year-old could be forgiven for thinking he used it all up in winning last year’s event. Then, Becker took a healthy four-shot lead into the final round of the tournament, but saw his advantage eaten away by a charging 2020 champion Hayden Hopewell. With the title slipping from Becker’s grasp, he skewed his tee shot on the par-five 18th hole into the rough and was forced to chip out sideways.
Moments later, a one-in-a-million stroke of luck changed Becker’s fortunes, and with it his career trajectory. His wedge shot, sailing to the back of the green, collided with playing partner Nathan Barbieri’s ball and spun back towards the hole, settling in tap-in range.
It was a remarkable stroke of luck for Becker and his par, coupled with a stunned Hopewell’s three-putt on the final green, ensured that it was Mandurah man’s name that was engraved on the trophy.
Now, just a few months removed from his greatest victory, Becker is eager to prove that his victory was no fluke.
“I’m looking forward to trying to show people that it wasn’t just luck,” he explains. “Everyone kind of blew up about the lucky break on the last hole, but you can’t get in that position without the first 71 holes.
“I played a lot of really good golf that week, went bogey free first two rounds and shot 65 in the third. I got myself into a strong position and had to hang in there a little on the final day when I was being chased down.
“Hayden was playing really good golf and it was a good tussle in the end. When it comes to tournament golf, you just have deal with bad breaks, and sometimes your luck bounces back.”
The win has undoubtedly propelled Becker to the next level of his career and, having recently progressed through the First Stage of DP World Tour Qualifying School in Portugal – he finished in a tie for ninth – the Western Australian is high on confidence heading into his title defence on a course he is very familiar with.
“The hardest part of golf is winning,” he explains. “You can play really well for a full season without winning a title.
“The Nexus Advisernet WA Open victory has been such a boost for me. There’s the confidence of knowing I can win, but it has also secured me two years on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, where I get into all the big events.
“This has meant that I have been able to go to other Qualifying Schools without having to worry about missing local events or earning enough to retain my card.”
This year’s running of the Nexus Advisernet WA Open at The West Australian Golf Club is the 98th edition of a championship with a long, storied history and a habit of unearthing future superstars.
Notable past champions include Major winners Gary Player, Kel Nagle, Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch, as well as European Tour winners Graham Marsh, Stephen Leaney, Brett Rumford and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, the recent winner of the Dunhill Championship on the DP World Tour.
“We are delighted to once again be involved with the WA Open,” explained Nexus Advisernet managing director Mark Patterson. “The quality of the course and the strength of the field again make this one of the coveted trophies in Australian golf. I have no doubt that we will once again see some thrilling golf throughout the week.”
The last time the WA Open was played at Western Australian Golf Club, in 2016, it was Cottesloe’s Curtis Luck who claimed the honours on a score of 19-under 261, defeating fellow amateur Travis Smyth by two strokes. Luck went on to win the US Amateur later that year and plies his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour, a feeder tour to the PGA Tour.
In the last 10 years, no fewer than three amateurs have claimed their State Championship, including Hopewell in 2020, Luck, in 2016 and Oliver Goss in 2012. The 2020 champion Hopewell will again lead the charge, with his victory at Royal Perth and runner-up finish a year later at the same venue a beacon of hope for all amateur players in the field.
“The elite amateurs playing in this year’s Nexus Advisernet WA Open are certainly not just there to make up the numbers,” explained Gary Thomas, CEO of GolfWA. “So it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two of them in contention come Sunday.
“Many have come through GolfWA’s High Performance Program, where we collaborate with the athletes, their coaches and service providers to provide playing opportunities such as this that form an integral part of their preparation for life as a future professional.” The Nexus Advisernet WA Open will be played at The West Australian Golf Club in Yokine from 20-23 October. Entry is free and there will be a host of activities to take part in during the week.
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