29 Jan 2021 | Amateur golf |
Champs' class belies conditions
By David Tease, GOLF NSW
For one, it was a display for the ages. For the other, a win as unlikely as it was epic.
Avondale’s Grace Kim from did what most expected today, making it back-to-back women’s NSW Amateur Championships and the first repeat champion since Sarah Oh in 2005-06.
For Andrew Richards, the win was the biggest of his career and one he least expected.
The finals were different affairs but with one constant: the rain and wind didn’t let up all day at Magenta Shores on the Central Coast.
In the women’s final, Kim was out of the blocks early, vaulting to a three-hole lead. By the 7th it was five, and by the 12th it was six.
Opponent Belinda Ji managed a birdie on the 18th to cut the game to five holes, but realistically, by then, the battle was probably lost.
Kim stepped on the gas to begin the second 18, getting to 7-up before Ji won the 21st. The pair swapped a few holes, however, when Kim took the 27th and 28th to get back to 7-up, the match was as good as over. Two holes later, she was a winner by 7&6.
Kim described her play as some of her best in recent times, particularly in the conditions.
“The past two days have been quite brutal. it took some getting used to,” she said.
Because of COVID-19, the NSW Amateur has effectively been Kim’s primary hit-out in almost 12 months, something which has frustrated the 2018 Youth Olympic champion.
“It was tough not doing anything, Preparation for what? Nothing. So to claim this title again feels huge for me.”
With borders now opening across the country, Kim is looking forward to now competing at the Australian Amateur.
After that, she will hopefully make the trek to the United States to compete at the Augusta Women’s Invitational, an opportunity taken from her last year by the pandemic.
“I’ve got to get move on with that, figure it all out,” she smiled.
For the hardy souls who braved the conditions, the men’s final was a classic.
Despite the rain, the golf on display was sublime.
Like Kim, Richards was first to make a move, getting out to an early lead. By the 11th he had marched it out to four holes and looked like a man in complete control.
But stroke play champ Jeffrey Guan bounced back, and before the opening round had ended, he had clawed his way back to just a one-hole deficit.
The pair traded the lead a couple of times as the second 18 began, before Richards went on a run, winning five holes in the next eight to grab a 4-up lead.
The pair traded wins on the 31st and 32nd holes before Richards made par on the 33rd hole for the biggest win of his career, by a 4&3 margin.
”I was quietly confident,” the Pennant Hills member said.
“I’ve been playing well and match play is a huge strength of mine.
“I played great the first 14 holes; I was three under in this rain.
“And I knew when I got the lead back (on the second timne) I couldn’t lose it again.”
Richards said earlier in the week that he’d been happy “just happy to make the match play” phase.
But he didn’t like the way that read when he saw it in print.
“When I saw yesterday’s quote, I was almost motivated by it; I wasn’t just happy to be there. I’m going to go out and win,” he said.
”I knew I had the experience to win.”
The victory is a massive boost for Richards, who intends to turn his attention to the professional ranks shortly.
“I plan to turn pro this year,” he said.
“Obviosuly I’m now in the NSW Open, so I do need to think about it.”
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