Harrison Crowe held his nerve in a nail-biting final round to become the third ever Australian to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with a one-shot victory at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand.
The 21-year-old Sydneysider will fulfil his childhood dreams by winning exemptions for The Masters and The 151st Open next year courtesy of his never-say-die back nine.
“It feels amazing right now,” Crowe said. “I came out here this week with something to prove and I’m extremely proud of myself for how I hung in there today.
“It took a lot of digging deep there. I had a great chat with my dad, coach and manager out there which helped me a long. I’m just really proud of myself.
“It’s really surreal. To have my dad and so many family and friends out here today is awesome.”
Crowe, who joined Antonio Murdaca in 2014 and Curtis Luck in 2016 as the only Australians to win this event, began the day with a two-shot lead, but his advantage whittled away quickly.
Three jittery bogeys on the front nine placed Crowe three-over for the round and three shots behind China’s Bo Jin at the turn.
The NSW Open, NSW Amateur, Victorian Amateur and Australian Master of the Amateurs champion proved with his victories last summer that he knows how to fight until the end on a Sunday however, and this occasion was no exception.
Suddenly the hole appeared to grow in size as Crowe caught fire with the putter to make three consecutive birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th, and he let out a big fist pump upon holing a mid-range birdie putt at the 15th to recapture a share of the lead.
The drama was only beginning at the point with the closing stretch turning out to be a tale of ups-and-downs, quite literally.
Crowe was unable to get up-and-down from the back of the green at the 16th and his frustration was clear as Jin’s par handed him a one-shot lead.
The iconic island green par-3 17th was the perfect setting for a late twist and it eventuated when Jin’s tee shot found the water.
The door was flung wide open for Crowe who maintained his composure to hit the green and two putted for his par, while his rival’s double bogey gave the St Michael’s Golf Club member the ascendancy once again.
“The boat ride was quite nice but I knew it wasn’t done yet,” he said.
The tee shot at the par-5 last posed no challenges for Crowe, who launched a long bomb down the middle of the fairway, but his second shot left Australian hearts in mouths.
Crowe pulled the ball left with his fairway wood, bringing the green side water into play, but his powerful ball striking flew his approach into the rough back-left of the green.
Jin’s second shot left him with a favourable up-and-down from the back of the green to make par, and the challenge was thrown down that Crowe would likely need to par the final hole to secure a life-changing victory.
“I pulled it, but I flushed it,” he recalled. “I was just hoping it caught a bit of grass.”
Coolly and calmly, his wedge shot rolled to within a few feet of the pin.
The pressure did not ease however as Jin made par to leave the possibility of a playoff on the table.
Crowe hit the nervy short putt beautifully however, to move back to 13-under for the tournament, sign off a final round 72, lift the trophy and delay his plans to turn professional.
“I wanted a solid week and onto the next chapter,” he said.
“But this is how I want to delay things for sure. It’s an extremely good reason not to turn professional right at this minute. When I wake up in the morning, it’s going to be pretty surreal knowing I’ll be playing in The Masters and The Open.”
Another Sydneysider, Jeffrey Guan, also produced a special Sunday with the two-time Australian Junior Amateur shooting a three-under par round of 69 to end the tournament in a tie for third.
Guan played his way into contention with four back nine birdies and once again showed that his game rises on the stage, but he ultimately finished four shots back from Crowe.
Karl Vilips was the next best of the Australians as the Standford University student came in a share of 11th at seven-under par with a final round 71.
Fellow West Australians Connor McKinney, Joshua Greer and Hayden Hopewell all ended their week with over-par rounds.
Australian Amateur champion McKinney’s round of 74 moved him back to three-under for the tournament, while Greer dropped seven shots to finish even-par and Hopewell’s five-over par round ensured he finished the tournament at that number.
Lukas Michel was the only other Australian in the field this week, but he missed the cut after rounds of 78 and 69.
The next edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship will be played at Royal Melbourne Golf Club from 26-29 October, 2023.
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