It must take a great deal of mental strength and composure to enter the final day of a tournament with a four-shot lead. Well, Aaron Townsend faced – and overcame – that exact scenario in winning the Meriton Sydney Invitational Pro-Am.
The New South Welshman calmly fought off a strong field, which included the likes of Victorian Open champion Dimi Papadatos, for 54 holes at three of Australia’s finest courses – New South Wales, St Michaels and The Lakes – to win by two points. Yes, that’s right, the professionals joined the amateurs and played for Stableford points across three days.
The tournament is the brainchild of John Small, who, in 2004, wanted to create an event similar to the renowned Pebble Beach Pro-Am that would raise money for charity. After 13 years, the tournament has raised well over $650,000 and Townsend is one of many who looks forward to the event every year.
“This is huge (to win). It’s a great tournament. I always enjoy playing this and I enjoy the format,” Townsend said.
Townsend, who won the Victorian PGA Championship in 2015, was cruising through 36 holes, but struggled early in the strong north-easterly winds blowing across The Lakes for the final round of the 54-hole event.
“Five-over par through eight holes is not where you want to be. It’s hard, when you’ve got a lead like that,” he said. “I’ve had big leads in the past and I find them almost harder than small leads because you’re focus can drop away and you start thinking ‘you just can’t lose from here’.”
RIGHT: Dimi Papadatos fires his approach to The Lakes' 8th green to set up a two-putt birdie. PHOTO: Brendan James.
But the 35-year-old was up for the challenge, and his cool temperament was on show at the 12th hole when he made a round-changing par.
“12 was a really important hole. The tee shot was great and my second shot was great – so that was a really nice confidence boosting par to make, and that set me on a good course for the rest of the nine,” Townsend added.
Townsend’s rounds of 40, 41 and 33 for a total of 114 points edged out the fast-finishing Dimi Papadatos by two points.
England’s Sarah-Jane Boyd, who also slept on a four point lead going into the final round, put on the blinkers and came out on top of the ALPG field to record her first professional win.
“This is a relief (to win). This is the beginning of my third year as a professional … so I’ve had a couple of years at it,” Boyd said.
“I had a good amateur career and I wanted to follow on. I thought it would be easier than it was and it was actually quite a mental obstacle or hurdle to overcome. So it’s really good to be able to cross that off and I hope I get a few more. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, so I’m really happy.”
RIGHT: Sarah-Jane Boyd broke through for her first professional win in three years. PHOTO: Getty Images.
Glenn Joyner, who last year claimed the South Australian PGA Seniors Championship, won the Legends field with 99 points, and has seen the Meriton evolve every year since its inception.
“I met John Small (Tournament Director) before he started doing this and he started talking about wanting to run this tournament and it’s great to see the way it’s grown,” Joyner said.
“When you get to my age you’re just happy to be out playing and doing something you love doing. I figure I’ll just keep doing it for as long as I can do it while I’m still competitive. On my day I can still play alright with the younger blokes.”
Team Troy, led by Joel Troy, were Team Net winners, while Team Giles, led by Matt Giles, were Team Scratch winners.
The tournament concluded with another successful Gala Charity Dinner, the proceeds of which will go to The Institute of Neuromuscular Research at the Westmead Children’s Hospital.
For information about the Meriton Sydney Invitational Pro-Am and to enter the 2018 event visit www.sydneyinvitational.com.au