07 Mar 2021 | Amateur golf |
Wong and Sutton defend, clutch Richards rules
by Mark Hayes
They did it in different manners, but Jeneath Wong and Andrew Richards are the 2021 Riversdale Cup champions.
Melburnian Wong, still just 16, dominated in defending her crown by 12 strokes, while Sydneysider Richards fought off a host of challengers with a quality back nine for a three-shot victory in one of Australia’s most storied amateur championships.
Wong became just the sixth back-to-back winner of the Riversdale Cup since the women’s tournament’s inception in 1959 and the first since former LPGA Tour player Inhong Lim in 2007.
Wong, already a Victorian Junior champ, has coasted home in both her Riversdale Cup victories.
The 15-year-old cruised to a six-shot win in 2020 and mauled the field this weekend, shooting nine shots better than her nearest rival in the final 36 holes to beat Matilda Miels and early leader Sheradyn Johnson by 12 strokes.
“I like RIversdale,” Year 11 student Wong said with a laugh.
“My putting was pretty good this week and I think that’s why I was able to (get clear).”
The Metropolitan member set the tone with an opening birdie on the tough par-3 first, then really asserted her dominance with a birdie on the long sixth.
Three more birdies on the back nine and her four-under-par 69 was comfortably the best women’s round of the week.
“I can’t play every event because of school … so I’m happy to play well (when I can) … I’ve been looking forward to this since we were in (Covid) lockdown.”
South Australian Miels (75), who’s from Bordertown but represents Kooyonga, reeled in Johnson (77) with consistency rather than brilliance as the Victorian couldn’t recover from her third-round collapse.
Richards, a proud member at Pennant Hills, will take a second big trophy back to his north-western Sydney club in six weeks after recently winning the NSW Amateur.
Despite an opening birdie, the overnight leader invited many in the field to think boldly when he made bogeys on the second and sixth holes.
Defending champ Lawrence Curtis and South Australian pair Jack Buchanan and Billy Cawthorne were all within reach, even after Richards steadied with birdie on the seventh.
Curtis, of Peninsula-Kingswood, was steady without really threatening, while the Adelaide contenders each endured three back-nine bogeys to take gloss off their birdies.
And so it was the effervescent Richards who showed his mettle with a blemish-free run home.
He nailed a birdie putt on the par-5 15th to edge comfortably clear and then put the exclamation point on his triumph with another after driving the par-4 home hole to stretch his margin.
Remarkably, Richards didn’t have one bogey on the back nine all week and his rounds of 69-68-69-70 and total of 12 under are testament to both his consistency and tournament nous.
And it was an incredible par save on the long 13th today that Richards said had been the key moment of his title run.
“I hit it in the trees and went for a hero shot that I probably shouldn’t have and hit it into the water,” the New South Welshman said.
“But (after a penalty drop) I wedged it to 20 feet and rolled in the par putt and that really made me breathe a bit easier.”
Richards credited his winning form to a revised approach that he ironed out with coach Rachel Bailey and mind guru John Novak through 2020.
“Obviously it wasn’t good for many people, but I the Covid break actually worked well for me and … allowed me to really focus in on my game,” he said.
“I’m a lot more relaxed on course than I used to be and I think that’s starting to show.”
Curtis’ title defence was a strong one and ended as runner-up at -9 after a closing 70.
The day’s best round belonged to Aiden Didone who closed with a 66 to share third with Lukas Michel (72) at eight under.
Didone stood on the sixth tee one over for his round, but made five birdies in the next six holes and then two more later to scythe through the field, including relegating Buchanan and Cawthorne to a share of fifth at seven under.
In the second All Abilities Riversdale Cup, Warrren Sutton defended his title in a thrilling finish by a stroke.
The Cardinia Beaconhills Golf Links member parred his final three holes as Sanctuary Lakes golfer Shaun Bakker closed with a bogey to fall back into second place.
Overnight leader Mike Rolls took a double-bogey up the last to finish one stroke further back.
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