Despite a nervous night and the weight of expectation, neither Hannah Park or Jackson Kalz surrendered their 54-hole leads at 13th Beach on Thursday on their way to winning the 2017 Junior Vic Open.
The winning duo were threatened early in the final round by their playing partners but none of the chasing pack could reel in Kalz or Park in supremely low-scoring conditions on Thursday.
Wednesday’s demanding weather gave way for blue skies and a tame breeze, the dominant play seen early in the week from the eventual 2017 champions continuing right up until the 72nd hole.
Park’s 54-hole lead of four shots held firm thanks to a final round 5-under 67 to finish at 10-under.
Kalz converted his overnight eight-stroke buffer into a dominant 10-shot victory with a closing 69 to reach 14-under for the week.
Kalz was the only player in the boys’ field to break 70 in the first three rounds (67-67-69) and he continued the trend on Thursday when he needed it most.
A trio of birdies from the 4th hole onwards effectively put the result to bed, the 17-year-old South Australian trading strokes on 12 and 13 before keeping his pursuers at arm’s length with a relatively nerve-free back nine.
“It should have been four in a row,” laughed Kalz, regarding a missed short putt on the 7th.
“It didn’t look like it was going my way early on but I got it back on track.
“I was a little bit nervous, I’ve never been in that situation before so it was new to me. I didn’t really know how to go about the day.
“I’ve never really been in a top position going into the final day, I’m usually coming from a few back.”
India’s Kartik Sharma battled his way to runner-up honours at 4-under with a closing 69 of his own, with Victorians Nathan Page and Antony Mastorovic sharing third-place at 2-under.
New South Welshwoman Park looked eager to put the girls’ event to bed early, rattling off four birdies in a blistering first eight holes.
Eventual runner-up Yuka Saso kept pace with Park, also recording four birdies against a lone bogey in her first 12 holes, but the deficit proved too great for the Filipino as the day wore on.
Saso matched Park’s final round 67 but the Filipino – despite finishing seven shots clear of Piper Stubbs in third – was too far back to make Park sweat.
“I was nervous on the first tee, but I was going good early and I felt nice and comfortable,” said Park.
“I started making birdies from the second hole and the confidence built from there. I kept making pars until the last hole and Yuka [Saso] was 4-under on the back nine, so I was getting a bit nervous!”
Neither Park nor Kalz will need to wait long in order to get another crack at 13th Beach, with both players awarded an exemption into the 2018 Oates Vic Open from February 1.
Kalz, however, may have already made his travel arrangements to Barwon Heads prior to this week, after earning a place in the Oates Vic Open field almost 12 months ago by winning the 2017 Vic Junior Masters.
“I played this year and that was so much fun, such a good experience,” said Kalz. “I’m really keen to come back.”
Park said she’d draw on the experience of playing in the Women’s New Zealand Open as she tees it up in the Oates Vic Open for the first time.
“I’m very excited,” said Park.
“I love it here. It’s going to play a bit longer thought, but I think I’ll get it around.”
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