11 Feb 2021 | National Championships |
Thompson closes on #AusAm crown
by Mark Hayes
For a long time today, Adelaide ace Jack Thompson’s march to the Australian Amateur crown looked unstoppable.
For the growing contingent of hometown fans who’ve come to watch the charismatic 23-year-old at Kooyonga this week, that might well come to pass in tomorrow’s final round.
But there’s one young Queenslander who threatens to throw a spanner into the coronation process.
Thompson had made two birdies and six comfortable pars when he stood on the ninth tee today with an eight-shot cushion at 14 under.
But his first double-bogey of the week on the ninth was compounded by a bogey on the 10th and the chasing field suddenly had hope.
The man who got that sniff in his nostrils was Louis Dobbelaar.
The former New Zealand Amateur champion soon poured in a 7m eagle putt from the fringe of the par-five 16th and the lead had been sliced.
But Thompson, a multiple Australian representative surely on the verge of a pro career, maintained the poise that has put him in this dominant position and responded with birdies of his own on 16 and 17 to push back to his overnight five-shot buffer.
Thompson’s 71 left him at 13 under, with Dobbelaar’s 68 moving him from seventh to second place, two clear of a host of players at six under capable of making a charge in Josh Greer, Toby Walker, Lawry Flynn, boom Sydneysider Jeffrey Guan and another South Australian Billy Cawthorne.
But, as it has for much of the past two days, the tournament is beholden to Thompson’s fortunes.
“It’s golf, 18 holes, and anything can happen (tomorrow), but it always helps when you have a five-shot lead,” Thompson said after a day on which Kooyonga bit most the field as an afternoon cool change blew through.
“I was happy I didn’t go backwards from the start. I got it to 14 under at one point but messed around on the ninth a bit, so it’s still a positive to be moving forward.
“It definitely showed its teeth today when the winds picked up today, and with the greens already firm, it made it hard putting and just trying to feel comfortable.
“But I was trying to play it smart and take advantage of some things and coming out here a few times maybe helped me reduce the risks a little bit.”
The best example of Thompson’s great game plan and his ball control came early on the tight par-3 third hole, with a pin cut front right behind a bunker.
Thompson, a member at The Grange nearby, knew getting his trademark draw close to that flag would be tough and had enough local knowledge to target an uphill putt from the front left fringe which he duly found en route to a comfortable par as his playing partners foundered after attacking shots.
Dobbelaar let slip another couple of late chances after prodigious drives on the 17th and 18th holes, but was upbeat about his game.
“I played solid today, but I had to be patient because I was getting ahead of myself and around here it’s quite difficult to get back in position, but I had a continue this momentum into tomorrow,” he said.
“The conditions play a huge factor around here … you want to overpower this course around here, but you just can’t.
“It’s nice that there’s only one person to chase though.”
The only man to match Dobbelaar’s round today was Northern Territory powerhouse Jake Hughes who eagled the first, birdied the second and then hung tough for a 68 of his own and leap 19 places to a share of ninth.
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