09 Oct 2019 | Amateur golf |

Sixes go off with familiar bang

by Contributor

Sixes go off with familiar bang_image
Hayden Hopewell (left) and Belinda Ji celebrate with Australian professional and tournament organiser Ewan Porter in Cronulla.

It was as if lightning struck twice as West Australian Hayden Hopewell and Sydney's Belinda Ji claimed the inaugural Junior 6s Invitational at Cronulla Golf Club.

And like the literal bolt which brought a temporary halt to proceedings midway through the afternoon, it was the twin victories over the reigning Australian boys' and girls' champions - Elvis Smylie and Hye Park - in the finals that thrilled the crowd.

The stage was set for some spectacular golf as soon as the matchplay rounds began with Jacob Dundas, the 8th seed, taking out the boys' top seed Jeffrey Guan in a sudden-death nearest the pin thriller to open the top half of the draw.

It opened up the door for Hopewell who accounted for Novocastrian Dundas 3&2 in the semi-finals.

Smylie, the second seed, accounted for both Blake Phillips and Tyler Duncan comfortably to reach the final and looked to many the man to beat.

But it was all Hopewell in the final as the Perth youngster jumped to an early lead with wins on the first two holes.

Smylie fought hard, but when Hopewell made a clutch birdie on the 16th to go 2-up, it was as good as over.

A concession on the next hole was all Hopewell needed to secure the title.

The West Australian state player described it as the biggest win of his career.

“My game plan for the Super 6s was to go for everything, don’t hold back and have no regrets,” the 17-year-old said.

“It paid off. I ended up being nine under for the 15 holes.

“This win is definitely up there. I won the Jack Newton (International) last year. I’m proud to be the inaugural winner.”

Hopewell also guaranteed himself a start in the NSW Open next month, as well as a start in the Gippsland 6s on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.

“It should be awesome to play, I can’t wait,” Hopewell beamed.

The girls' event came down to the top two seeds in the final with Queensland-based Korean Park, the NSW and Australian girls' champion against Concord’s Belinda Ji.

Park looked in charge with a 1-up lead with three holes to play, but a lost ball on the 16th seemed to rattle the talented 15-year-old.

An errant tee shot on the penultimate hole led to a second straight concession and all of a sudden it was Ji in the box seat with just the par-three last to play.

Ji showed how nerve under pressure, hitting her tee shot to just under 4m to heap pressure on Park, who responded by knocking her tee shot close, too.

Sadly, though, Park couldn’t convert the putt and left Ji two putts for victory that also thrilled her.

“It’s an amazing win for me,” she said.

“I haven’t really played anything like this before, so it feels special.

“I had been playing pretty well all day, So I knew I might get my chance and I was just going to have to stay patient.”

The win secured Ji a place in the 2020 Women’s NSW Open at Dubbo Golf Club.

Competing against the pros is familiar turf for Ji, who qualified for her first Women’s NSW Open as a 12-year-old and during the 2018 Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville recorded a hole-in-one on the 17th hole in the first round.

“I’m looking forward to playing against the professionals again. It’s great to be able to see how you can play against them; it’s a great experience,” she said.

This article was written by David Tease.

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