11 Dec 2023 | Professional golf | Amateur golf |

Clayton: After the rain, young female amateurs shine at Sandbelt Invitational

by Mike Clayton

Jazy Roberts
Jazy Roberts on day one of the 2023 Sandbelt Invitational

Anyone who is part of running a tournament knows the sense of dread biblical rain brings to the proceedings.

The arrangers, including the writer, drove into Victoria for the opening day of the Sandbelt Invitational to find the first fairway entirely covered in a sheet of water and the green all the way under.

Of course, it’s a nightmare for the ground staff, who need to repair the damage an inch and half of rain in a couple of hours does to the bunkers. In the end, a few were so filled with water Trever Herden, one of the longest serving (and best) tournament officials in the game, deemed them out of play, but in fairness it made little difference to the scoring.

The tee times went back three hours, the field was split between the 1st and 10th tees and they all got finished which was the object of the exercise.

Rarely would at least some of the attention be on someone who is tied for 62nd after a 78 but Fuyu Yang’s story is worth something.

At the Asia Pacific Amateur at Royal Melbourne a few weeks ago, one of the caddies mentioned to me a young girl, a member at The National, might be worthy of an invitation.

What could possibly go wrong? An 11-year-old playing four courses not exactly set up for someone still not tall enough to use full sized clubs.

You hope they won’t be overwhelmed by it all. You hope they can at least hit far enough to reach most of the holes in regulation. You hope they don’t shoot a lot.

Fuyu, playing with the elderly Marcus Fraser - someone we knew would help her though the round if she needed it - hit a beautiful drive down the 233-metre opening hole, one that is something of a curiosity in the modern game because almost every other hole of that length on a championship course would be deemed a par-3. And with the stroke of the pen, it would go from "the easiest hole" on the course to the most difficult.

There is a lot to be said about "half-par" holes and Victoria has some of the best on the Sandbelt.

Fuyu made a mess of the two difficult par-4s after the turn, hitting it over the back of the 10th green sited on the high point of the dune, and going from bunker to bunker on the next.

Four shots gone in two holes was a blow, but to play the rest of the course in two over the par was remarkable.

Alan Shipnuck, perhaps the best-known writer in the modern game, interviewed her after the round and it was delightfully charming when it could have been - well, not very good -because how many 11-year-olds are very good in front of a camera?

“What did you learn from playing with the pros?”

“I learned getting angry doesn’t do you any good and only leads to more mistakes.”

And she had absolutely no idea who Shipnuck was, which must have been a first for him.

The leaders at 5-under are Jazy Roberts (67) and Jack Thompson (65).

Roberts plays remarkably quickly and equally remarkably quietly. Instead, she lets her golf do the talking and she is following this with her 14th place finish at the Australian Open.

The favourite and defender, Cameron Davis, is some way back at 71 (1-over the men’s par) so he’s got some work to catch Roberts – which is the idea of the tournament.

Where else can a young female amateur play against one of the best players in the world and deal with all the anxiety coming with the task ahead?

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