Magenta Shores CC, March 29-31, 2024

HAYES: A Simply Unscriptable Classic

In commentary as the Women’s NSW Open playoff began, Sam Hargreaves predicted a hole-in-one because it was about the only thing yet to happen on a crazy final day.

And while he might have had tongue planted firmly in his cheek, it literally came within 6cm of becoming reality.

The owner of that shot then lost the playoff.

It was that kind of day in Tuncurry.

The vast majority of those in the final couple of groups played 36 holes to catch up after rain delays. It shone, they sweated; it rained, they covered up; it finished in near darkness after the eventual champ Momoka Kobori had her ball fall off her tee midway through her downswing on the final hole of regulation play.

She still hit it – and she still made par. To get into the playoff. Of course she did.

The pair she eventually vanquished in the final group stamped themselves as the vanguard of the “next wave” of Aussie golf. Brilliant, attacking amateurs Claire Shin and Sarah Hammett pushed rising global star Kobori all the way.

Between them, they made seven birdies and two eagles and each looked the winner at various stages of arguably the craziest single days in Australian professional women’s golf.

Hammett, who at 16 – yes, 16 – has already twice finished top 10 in this event and sixth against a fully fledged LET field at Bonville last year, was hard done by not to reach the playoff herself.

After stumbling from the blocks with three bogeys in five holes from the third, the Gold Coaster ripped the course to shreds in an hour of sheer brilliance from the eighth. 

She’d been five shots behind Kobori after the seventh hole, but when she rammed in an eagle on the 15thand followed suit in misty rain with a birdie on the 16th, she’d remarkably hit the front.

But even on this day of extraordinary, her demise came after something next level.

Playing a group ahead, Godiva Kim somehow, somehow, missed the 17th green by 50m long, yes long. As she attempted to return the ball to the same postcode as the 17th, she took eight blows and an unfortunately long time, so much so that Hammett, just 125m up the fairway behind, went from white hot to blue cold between shots.

Her predictably nervous error afterwards resulted in her own double-bogey and although she came with a hair’s breadth of salvaging a playoff berth as her birdie breezed by on the 18th, her chances had been fatally wounded.

Shin’s birdie try from the fringe missed by an equally small margin, but she still looked the winner until Kobori made what surely rates as the most extraordinary par of her life.

After her falling ball skewed right off the tee, her second found the left greenside sand and the subsequent blast sufficiently past the cup to become a genuine 50-50 proposition.

But of course she rolled it in, with another – the third of her round – all-world par saving putt.

Shin’s approach to the par-3 9th hole in the playoff was sublime, tracking like a pin-seeking missile to the cup.

It landed 6cm right, but spun back 4m, allowing Kobori some breathing space.

But the seemingly unflappable Kiwi uncustomarily blinked and found the front sand, from which, naturally, she made another all-world contending save.

Shin, though, surely, could shut this thing down now. Two putts and it’s hers. The Jan Stephenson Trophy straight to the pool room.

But as Leslie Nielsen once said, “don’t call me Shirley”.

Her first putt rushed by, her second putt hooked out and the Kiwi Kobori was the champion of New South Wales.

Somehow.

I watched it for hours and I’ve still got no idea how.

What an epic day for women’s golf – an unscriptable classic that should be spoken of for years.

Stephenson herself, hopefully watching on while mending in Florida, would have been extremely proud.

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