In what is regularly one of the most exciting golf events on Australia’s summer calendar, this year’s Oates Victorian Open did not disappoint, with a fairytale finish for the combined men’s and women’s event.
In front of huge galleries at the magnificent Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, Victorian Richard Green capped off a week to remember by securing his first Oates Victorian Open title, joining his victorious Norwegian fiancée Marianne Skarpnord, who captured the women’s title.
Starting the day three shots off the lead, Green, playing in the second-last group, fired a 5-under-par 67 to finish regulation play on 16-under 272. Green then watched on as fellow left-hander and Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff. It took two playoff holes for Green to claim the victory, draining a birdie putt to take the title from Cullen.
Victorian amateurs Ben Eccles, 20, and Ryan Ruffles, 16, tied for third with previous winner Scott Arnold (14-under par) while 2004 Vic Open winner Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) finished tied for sixth.
The win was a fitting end to the week for Green, who made international headlines following an incredible hole-in-one albatross on the par-4 15th during the Wednesday Pro-Am that was seen around the world via social media.
A three-time winner on the European Tour, 43-year-old Green has been a strong supporter of the Vic Open and was proud to finally place his name on the trophy.
“It’s been a long time coming, I have wanted to come back to win and support the tournament and finally after 23 years of trying I have got it finally,” said Green.
“The last few years I have thoroughly enjoyed coming here to play, it’s one of those tournaments that I have wanted on my list, more so than some other around the world, it’s been very important to me.”
In what may be referred to as a “Hollywood ending”, Green’s fiancée Marianne Skarpnord made headlines of her own on the same day, taking her place in the winner’s circle with her victory in the Ladies Oates Vic Open.
Skarpnord carded rounds of 70, 68, 68 and 73 to finish at 13-under-par and three clear of England’s Holly Clyburn (73) and Victorian Su Oh (72). Sharing fourth place was Rachel Hetherington (69) and Rebecca Artis (71).
The three-time Ladies European Tour winner didn’t have an easy time of it, with pressure coming from Oh all day.
“I was struggling a bit today,” Skarpnord said. “I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole. I had some great chances in the front nine and missed them. On 10,11 I had good chances and I just didn’t take them.”
“To be honest I got a bit nervous out there because Su was playing really, really well. She is a great player and just fantastic to play with. I’m sure it’s not going to take long before she’s got the trophies. She’s going to be really good.”
For Green , Skarpnord’s victory was the culmination of hard work and perseverance.
“It’s incredible. I’ve seen what Marianne has been through in the last few months with her game and her wrist injury. I’ve seen an immense amount of work put in by her and I’m very proud of her,” said Green, who was on the range preparing for a playoff when Skarpnord sunk her final putt.
“I would have loved to have been there for her [to see the win] but it’s the way it panned out, to be in contention for the men’s tournament, I had to keep warm and fortunately that helped me stay focused to continue in the playoff.”
Skarpnord summed it up best when she said it’s been a fairytale finish.
“It’s almost a dream come true – a fairytale. We got engaged last week, we moved into the house (at Thirteenth Beach) on Monday, Greeny had an albatross on Wednesday and here we are today both winners,” said Skarpnord.
Oates extends to 2018
Oates have extended their naming rights sponsorship of the Oates Victorian Open for a further two years on top of the original three-year deal, taking the partnership through till 2018.
Oates CEO, David Birch said that the decision was something his company had been considering given the growth of the tournament and the State Government and City of Greater Geelong’s commitment through till 2018.
“The impressive growth and success of this event since our original signing has made the decision to extend our partnership an easy one to make,” said Birch.
“The Oates team remain impressed by the tremendous support, and value, to Oates and our brand by the boards and management of Golf Victoria and Thirteenth Beach Golf Links.
“We are sure with this continued partnership and the new state funding, the Oates Vic Open will absolutely grow in stature around the world and our brand along with it.”
Oates became the naming rights partner of the Victorian Open for the start of the 2014 tournament and have been instrumental in the event’s success.
Simon Brookhouse, Golf Victoria CEO welcomed the extension, stating it was a great reflection of the impact the event has had since adopting the new men’s and women’s combined format.
“This is tremendous news for Golf Victoria and the Oates Vic Open. David [Birch] and his team have been a delight to work with in this partnership. To have such a wonderful partner in Oates has helped us achieve the success we have enjoyed with this event,” Brookhouse said.
“By extending the agreement through till 2018 to match up with the State Government and City of Greater Geelong’s commitments makes sense and helps us secure a strong future for the event.
“Oates are an integral part of what we do with the Victorian Open. David in particular is our event’s biggest advocate and his enthusiasm and humility has helped us attract even more corporate partners .We look forward to working with the team from Oates for another three Oates Vic Opens following this year’s.”