Brady Watt’s eventual victory at the Sandbelt Invitational felt like something of a fait accompli at times on Thursday at Peninsula Kingswood.
However, a mix of bogeys and birdies on the back nine of the South Course combined with a Jed Morgan charge was enough to create some tension on the grounds.
The upset of the club member, Watt, never really looked like eventuating after he returned to even par for the day and nine-under for the tournament at the 16th hole. Morgan, the new pro from Queensland, dropping a shot at the par-3 17th to allow the coronation of Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Clayton’s first champion to begin.
Having learned of his five-shot buffer over Morgan as he made his way up the 72nd hole, Watt added some final theatrics with a birdie at the par-4 to cheers from his family and friends, fellow pros and casual observers.
‘Waited a long time to be a winner, a four round event, my first as a pro, extremely satisfying,” the Melbourne based West Australian who finished at 10-under for the tournament told Golf Australia magazine immediately after signing his card.
“The icing on the cake was holing the putt on the last. It’s interesting, I didn’t know all day until walking up the last that I had a five-shot lead, and my fiancé told me. It is a weird feeling standing over the putt thinking, ‘You might as well make it’. That grandstand finish, everyone wants that feeling, it is the best feeling.”
Watt’s reflection on his wait to break through in a four round event was understandably an instant reaction.
The 31-year-old was at one time ranked as the No.1 amateur in the world, touted as a potential future star. And despite a recent win at home in Perth over 36 holes, he hadn’t truly put his best foot forward in a big event, until this week that is.
“That’s probably the biggest thing. Can you do it at a four round event like this? And I can. That’s just amazing.” - Brady Watt.
Watt appeared to be the leader after round one at Kingston Heath on Monday before Blake Collyer pipped him by a shot late. Since that time though, he has looked in complete control, of both his golf ball and his emotions, a smile permanently tattooed on his face.
The smile wasn’t unique to Watt, with every person, player or otherwise enjoying their time on some of the best golf courses on the planet in a unique format. But it was clear the challenge of “Sunday pins on four straight days” as Ogilvy put it, firm and fast conditions and an emphasis on strategy suited him down to the ground.
“This is my biggest event as a winner. And it is great to do it on your home course in front of family and friends,” Watt said. “I played really solid, I love these type of courses.”
As Watt appeared to have his game tuned to perfection as he strode the fairways in a variety of bucket hats throughout the week, Morgan, who finished at three-under alone in second place, was clearly not at his best. But the 2020 Australian Amateur champion, who finished one in front of John Lyras, fought admirably and will take plenty away from the week. Not the least a sizeable cheque as he begins life in the play for pay ranks.
“I probably shouldn’t have got an invite into this, and thankfully I know Geoff and the other organisers fairly well and they reached out to me, and I am very grateful,” Morgan told this publication.
“I was trying not to think about it, but obviously it plays a major part in what we do, the money we make. I have missed two cuts in a row and coming into this week confidence wasn’t very high, so this definitely bumps it up.”
And the 21-year-old will head home for Christmas with far more than a few extra dollars in this bank account.
“I just found a bit more of myself out there, that was the cool thing. Where I finished, it mattered to me, but it also kind of didn’t because I haven’t really had my game for the last six months. I have been a lot of searching and despite what has been happening over the last few days, it has been so fun.”
The event was far more than just a group of male pros getting together for a “Christmas hit and giggle” as Watt suggested he initially thought it might feel like.
Pros from the women’s game and amateurs as young as 13 made up the field, and three others were rewarded for their efforts across ‘The Heath’, Royal Melbourne, Yarra Yarra and ‘PK’.
Grace Kim won one tournament within the tournament, taking out the low woman pro title.
“Playing with some of the pros, like Zach Murray and Lucas Herbert, I have had a spectacular week. Seeing your good shots compete with their good shots, is just another tool in your bag that you go ‘Okay, well I am pretty good at this thing’." - Jye Pickin.
The Sydneysider finished at even par for the event to top a fast finishing Su Oh, who finished in a share of 12th at four-over.
Kim is another who has recently left the amateur game after a decorated run, and looks a tremendous prospect, having managed her game magnificently throughout the four days.
“I just wanted to play to par. I didn’t want to get too greedy, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to back away,” Kim said. “I think this is definitely an eye opener for where my game is at the moment. I am really looking forward to all the summer events. I guess, bring it on.”
The amateur prizes went to Jye Pickin (+1) and the diminutive Jeneath Wong (+12), who played with Ogilvy on the final day and finished with an even par round for an eight shot advantage over her nearest competitor.
“It was awesome. Great week,” Pickin said. “It is tough golf, but you just have to hang in there and make some putts, which I did today.
“Playing with some of the pros, like Zach Murray and Lucas Herbert, I have had a spectacular week. Seeing your good shots compete with their good shots, is just another tool in your bag that you go ‘Okay, well I am pretty good at this thing’.”
Added Wong, “Feels really exciting, I played last week at PK and Kingston Heath, I had a little practice round before the week. It has been pretty good.”
All four will leave the event and the spectacular Peninsula Kingswood extremely happy. But so will Clayton, Ogilvy and co. who have created something extremely special that has proven big names and big tents aren’t the recipe for tournament success. Quality courses and a unique learning opportunity for young players a winning combination that might draw the other sooner rather than later.
And Watt will share their collective positivity in what has occurred this week as he moves forward and looks to continue the process of delivering on his promise of years ago.
“The confidence thing, you prove to yourself you can do it,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing. Can you do it at a four round event like this? And I can. That’s just amazing.”