13 Jan 2023 | Amateur golf |
#AusAm: Kobori wins championship for New Zealand
by Martin Blake
New Zealander Kazuma Kobori is the men’s Australian Amateur champion for the first time.
The 21-year-old Japanese-born star was brilliant on the final day at New South Wales Golf Club, starting out tied for the lead and shooting a wonderful, closing 6-under par 66 to seal the victory.
Not content to limp home to the win, he wedged in close at the par-5 18th and rolled the putt in to complete the victory at 15-under par by two shots over England’s Arron Edwards-Hill and Japan’s Taishi Moto.
The Australians were left in the internationals’ wake, although local hero Harrison Crowe rattled home with 66 to tie-fifth with Jye Pickin, his fellow New South Welshman as the top Aussies.
Kobori won a professional tournament – the NZ PGA – four years ago and has been on the radar ever since, but has been pushed aside somewhat by the feats of his elder sister, Momoka, who is headed to the Ladies European Tour this year.
But today was his day in the sun in Sydney. He had six birdies and an eagle on the day, jumping to a three-shot lead when he birdied the par-4 16th hole, before one of his few missteps of the day.
Missing the green at the difficult par-4 17th hole he made bogey from the right side, and that left the door open for Moto at the end.
“At that point my only danger was actually Taishi (Moto) chipping in (at 18), which he actually gave a very good nudge,” said Kobori. “It made my heart skip a few beats, but after that, it was all good.”
He was swamped by his New Zealand teammates and doused with water immediately after what amounts to his biggest amateur victory. “I was hoping it would happen,” he said. “But I didn’t want to get drenched! It’s alright. I appreciate them sticking there watching me on the back nine. I appreciate their support.”
Kobori was delighted. “I’m stoked, actually,” he said. “We had a really good battle Taishi and me, and Arron was putting pressure on as well. I’m stoked to get over the line.”
The Kiwi said despite his string of birdies, the biggest moment came at the par-4 15th hole with a par. “Probably the par putt on 15. I basically smoked the first one past and made one coming back, which was a big momentum keeper.”
Of the Australians Crowe started too slowly but showed his class at the end, and Pickin made a strong run on the final day. Turning in 31, the man from Newcastle had tied the lead with three consecutive birdies. “When I made those birdies, I was somewhere thereabouts.”
But the putter went cold on the back nine, and he signed for a 68. “I looked at the leaderboard last night and I was a couple back of the Aussies, so if you’d said at the start of the week you’re tied leading Aussie, I would’ve taken it.”
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