20 Nov 2019 | Amateur golf |

Lautee, Kim win Vic Am title

by Martin Blake

Grace Kim and Andre Lautee with the Victorian Amateur trophies today.
Grace Kim and Andre Lautee with the Victorian Amateur trophies today.

Grace Kim of New South Wales and hometown favourite Andre Lautee have won the Victorian Amateur Championships at Kingston Heath.

Playing on his home track, Lautee demolished Lukas Michel of Metropolitan, his friend and Victorian teammate in this year’s winning Interstate series, in the men’s final, to make it two Vic amateur titles in a row.

Also the 2018 champion at Huntingdale, Lautee, 20, won 5 and 4 to continue his rise to prominence.

Sydney’s Kim, 18, also had an easy run in the women’s final, smashing June Song 7 and 6 in a match-up of Avondale Golf Club and New South Wales teammates. Both players earn a start in the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach in February.

Lautee’s win at Huntingdale in 2018 was viewed as the arrival of a star; today’s victory only franks that. A late-comer, he also intends trying to qualify for the Emirates Australian Open next month. Next week, he’s teeing it up in the Dunes Medal on the Mornington Peninsula. His calmness under pressure is what sets him apart, according to the best judges.

Lautee was rock solid all day, breaking out to a five-up lead through 18 holes after the 25-year-old Michel lost two balls, and holding firm from there. Each time Metropolitan’s Michel challenged, Lautee would respond, such as at the par-three 15th hole (the sixth on the tournament rota), where he got up and down from the deep left trap, holing a four-metre curler to win the hole.

Ironically not everything had gone to plan for the Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder this week; he was four down in his first match of the tournament, managed to pull through and ended up the winner.

“After the win last year, it gave me a lot of confidence that I can compete at this level and win at this level,” Lautee said.

The Melburnian is planning on playing some big events as an amateur before taking the plunge; his first priority is to finish his technology degree at Swinburne University. “I’ve got a couple of years left as an amateur,’’ he said. “I’m planning to go the America and the UK next year. I don’t feel in any rush. Lukas is probably in a similar situation, going to uni for a few years, and he’s doing extremely well now.”

The women’s final was a learning experience for teenager June Song, who got to play her biggest final yet but was schooled by the more experienced Grace Kim, winner of the Youth Olympics gold medal last year and a previous Australian junior champion.

Kim jumped out to the lead early, was five-up at the turn and ended it when they both took par at the 30th hole, ending up five-under par overall. The victory came at the end of a week when Kim started the strokeplay section with a poorly 80 at Commonwealth. Fortunately, she was able to turn it around.

“I played solid today, actually all throughout this week except the first day of strokeplay where I struggled,” she said. “That (the 80) was like ‘that’s pretty embarrassing’. I’m happy I was able to come back.”

Kim admitted she was “outside the comfort zone” on a bouncy Kingston Heath, but she liked the experience. “Now that I’ve won!” she said. “It’s tricky, not like home at all. But I like how it’s different. You don’t get spin out here at all. It just keeps running.”

Kim is heading overseas to play big amateur events in America in 2020 before trying her luck at the LPGA Tour school in August, when she will likely turn professional. She has emerged inspired from her trip to the LPGA Championship as part of the Karrie Webb Scholarship this year, where she stayed in the same house as the winner, Australia’s Hannah Green.

“I loved every bit of it,” she said. “I was so happy to be there and being proud, wearing the green and gold with Becky (Kay, another scholarship holder). And for Hannah to win that week, I was in the house, I reckon that was my best week ever as a golfing experience.”

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