History was made at the 2014 Oates Victorian Open after Matthew Griffin successfully endured a three-hole playoff to secure his first professional PGA Tour of Australasia title on home soil.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride when playing off in his home country, his continental drought came to an end in emphatic form with spectators left watching with excitement on the edge of each bunker.
The 30-year-old Victorian received a pat on the back from 2013 women’s champion Stacey Keating when describing the victory as “incredible”.
“It was incredible now that I look back on the tension there in that play off. Matt (Stieger) was playing really well and it was going both ways, really,” said Griffin.
“It was awesome to get over the line and with that bunker shot, it probably ended up as six (or seven) footer and sliding across the slope, so I was glad it squeezed in”.
The pair initially tied for seven under par, following Day 3 leader Brett Drewitt (-6) while Day 2 leader Terry Pilkadaris tied for 4th with Andrew Kelly (each on -4).
Griffin was never a certainty for the title with many spectators highlighting his putting efforts on the 17th hole which enable him the joint lead.
“The two young guys were really fantastic, they didn’t make a mistake, so I really had to play some good golf to eventually get in front and get that trophy” said Griffin.
As a result of the title, Griffin will enjoy $150,000 in prize money thanks to a number of sponsors behind the 2014 Oates Victorian Open.
However the lightly built athlete instead focussed on joining his idols when looking at his new addition to the trophy cabinet.
“My childhood hero Greg Norman’s on there, so it’s nice to put your name on the same trophy as a great and there’s so many other amazing players on there, Peter Thompson is incredible”, Griffin smiled.
Phoenix based Queenslander Raymond Beaufils impressed early hitting seven under par for the day, finishing off the tournament tied for fourth (at -3) while South Australian Adam Bland followed close by; shooting under six this morning.
“I was running low on confidence this week but this round I guess I played conservative golf, no blemishes”, reflected Beaufils.
The 25-year-old continued, “I’ve been lazy in Scottsdale because it’s only a forty minute drive to the events so this year I’d like to travel around and hit some more shots”.
Former tournament winners Paul Sheehan (2011) and Matthew Giles (2013) would be cut from the group in the first round while Gareth Paddison, the last International winner from 2004, finished in the bottom two overall (+10).
However it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the remaining trophy keepers after Jason Norris recorded four consecutive birdies this morning.
“My week wasn’t great but the course was superb, to finish on a high today was very nice”, said Norris.
On the women’s side, a new star was born. Minjee Lee finished with a score of -16 (-6 on the day) to claim the 2014 Oates Victorian Open Women’s trophy.
She started the day in sole possession of the lead at -10 with local girl Sarah Jane Smith and Victorian amateur Su-Hyun Oh right on her heels. None of the aforementioned players could afford to drop a shot. Once the door was opened for one to take advantage of another’s slip up, the chance was taken. No one, however, could match Lee’s play. It was precise, dominant, elegant, near-perfect aside from two bogeys on 1 and 3, yet undoubtedly merciless. All she had to do after the fifteenth hole was par out for the win.
Lee had the following to say, when asked about when she felt she had the tournament in her pocket.
“Ya maybe after 15, I saw the leaderboard. I didn’t have to do anything crazy.”
“Just finish my round.”
She was ever so graceful in speaking about her first win in a pro tournament. In fact it was tough for her to believe that she had achieved such a feet.
“Not really. I am just kind of like ahh I won. Nothing has sunk in yet. It was good.”
She certainly learned how to win from playing in the Masters and last week’s Women’s Australian Open.
“I don’t know. I think just being in that situation. I was so much more comfortable in today’s round. I guess I have just gotten used to it. “
Lee’s nerves got her early and then she settled in and became calm.
“Bogey birdie then bogey again. I wasn’t really settled in but after the next hole I was really calm. I just hit some good shots and made birdies after that.”
Runner up Vikki Laing put the pressure on down the stretch. Laing carded the best round of the day at -8. She started with a bogey on 1 but then rallied immediately with birdies on 2,3 and 4. She came home with birdies on 15,16 and 18 and signed her card at -8 for the tournament, a valiant effort from the Scottish player.
Early scores in the day had reigning champion Stacey Keating card a +5 and finish tied for fifteenth at +3, while the tournament’s most recent international winner (2012), Joanna Klatten (France), slipped out of the top twenty and was amongst two players tied at +8.
Having won at the amateur level, this is the first major win in a professional tournament for Lee.
This a big step forward in her young career as she follows up some brilliant performances this ALPG season with a massive win. Lee’s summer had her entering the Women’s Australian Open with the lead on Sunday, coming second in the Ladies Masters and finishing fifth at the New South Wales Open as the top amateur.
“I wasn’t really thinking about much going into this round my head was clear. I kind of played and took it as it came.”
“Nothing changes for me.”