Braden Becker logged the first win of his ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia career today in taking out his home-state Nexus Advisernet WA Open in an extraordinary 72nd hole climax.
At the end of a thrilling two-man duel with fellow Western Australian Hayden Hopewell, Becker bounced his wedged fourth shot at the closing par-5 off the golf ball of playing partner Nathan Barbieri, sitting in the fringe behind the green, and back to a foot from the flag.
It left him with a tap-in par when it could have been so much worse, and moments later a stunned Hopewell three-putted from long range to hand the win to Becker, 29, who has been a prolific winner of pro-ams but had never completed the task over four rounds.
“I’ve never seen that happen to anyone,” said the man from Mandurah Country Club, who was mobbed by supporters on the green afterward. “Normally it hits that ball and goes off the green. To help me out like that I think it was a bit of payback for a couple of things that happened earlier.”
Becker shot a final-round even-par 72 to clinch the win by a shot at 19 under par from leading amateur and defending champion Hopewell, who carded a four-under 68, franking the talent he has shown over the past couple of years with another great performance. Barbieri was third at 17 under just ahead of Josh Armstrong, who rattled around in 63 equalling the course record set by Hopewell on Saturday.
It was a topsy-turvy day; Becker began with a four-shot lead that he quickly extended to five; by the time Hopewell birdied the ninth it was down to one shot, and then when Royal Fremantle’s favourite son birdied the 13th from close range and Becker three-putted from 60 feet, it was tied. They went hammer and tongs from there, Becker hitting a pure wedge at the 15th to go back to the outright lead, then three-putting from the fringe at the 16th to see it tied up again.
The 18th was crazy. All three players – Becker, Barbieri and Hopewell – drove into trouble down the right, and Becker’s position was worse … up against the butt of a native tree. A failed chip-out off a branch left him with more than 200 metres to the green for his third shot. Ultimately, Becker won it with a par with the ricochet of his life. Hopewell had a long putt for the outright win which he overcooked, and eventually took bogey to miss out on a playoff.
“I’m in shock,” said Becker. “I’m still shaking. Hit a lot of good shots and I hit some terrible ones and I got punished for them, and I just scraped through.”
Becker receives a two-year exemption to play on the Australasian Tour. “It’s a really good feeling, knowing I’ve got somewhere to play for a couple of years, it’s awesome, but it also gives me the confidence and the dollars to go and push somewhere else, whether it’s DP World Tour or Korn Ferry.”
Cameron Pollard from Sawtell in northern New South Wales won the WA Open All Abilities Championship by nine shots.
Pollard, 22, a winner of numerous All Abilities championships in recent years, began the day with a five-shot lead and shot an 80 despite four closing bogeys.
“I struggled a bit early on, but I got the hang of the greens later on the front nine,” he said. “I holed a few good putts for par. It was just better to hit it better all day.”
It was his first win this year. “It’s been about three or four tournaments, so I’m pretty pleased with it.”
The WA Open will be played twice this year; this was the deferred 2021 event, and the 2022 iteration will be in October at the Western Australian Golf Club.
The tour moves on to Darwin next week for the NT PGA Championship at Palmerston golf course with the Order of Merit for the 2021-22 season to be decided.
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