For the fourth time in six years, Scotland is celebrating a notable early-season amateuer success after Connor Syme joined Jack Doherty and Eric Ramsay in becoming a ‘Wizard of Oz’ with victory in the Australian Amateur Championship.
Vindicating the optimisim expressed by national coach Ian Rae heading into the event at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, the 20-year-old Drumoig Golf Centre player claimed the biggest success of his career with a 3&2 victory over home hope Travis Smyth in the 36-hole title showdown.
“It’s not quite sunk in yet for sure, it’s absolutely amazing,” said Syme as he savoured following in the footsteps of both Doherty and Ramsay, the winners in 2003 and 2005 respectively, by etching his name on the trophy.
Syme, a semi-finalist in the 2014 Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush before helping Scotland win the European Team title in Sweden last summer, took early charge of the contest after three birdies in the opening six holes.
That initial burst helped him secure a three-hole advantage at lunch before he quickly went five up in the afternoon. And, though Smyth reeled off a hat-trick of birdies as he battled hard to extend the contest, the young Scot was not to be denied.
“It’s been a long week and I’m absolutely delighted,” added Syme, who, in addition, to having guaranteed himself a leap up the world amateur rankings from his current position of 146st, has also secured a return trip Down Under later in the year for the Emirates Australian Open.
The new champion was showered with praise by the experienced Rae, who made the trip Down Under to accompany and mentor a Scottish contingent that also included Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald.
“Connor played outstanding golf all week,” he said. “He stuck to his game plan today and kept himself very calm and level all day. This is a major success for Connor and Scottish amateur golf as it’s very difficult to travel so far and compete against a top-class field and win.”
The triumph mirrors early-season successes achieved by Michael Stewart (2011), Brian Soutar (2012) and Daniel Young (2015) in the South African Amateur Championship while Bradley Neil, of course, also chalked up a notable match-play victory in that time as he won the aforementioned Amateur Championship at Portush after beating Syme in the semi-final. “I’m so proud of how Connor, and the rest of the players have played and prepared and all his great effort to make this win possible,” added Rae.
Syme cut his golfing teeth at Dumfries & County before moving to Fife when his dad Stuart, the current PGA in Scotland captain, took over the Drumoig Golf Centre.
“He really deserves this as he dedicates himself to his dreams and he is just a pleasure to help along his way,” said Syme sr. “Drumoig has been huge for his development as we have such a terrific facility for him to use and he has taken advantage of that.”
Europe eased to an emphatic 13-point victory against Asia in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
Darren Clarke’s men were leading 9-3 heading into the third and final day of singles at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club and extended that advantage in style, winning the tournament for the first time 18.5-5.5.
Danny Willett clinched the win with eight matches still out on course, taking Europe’s fourth point against Byeong-hun An after Ian Poulter, Andy Sullivan and Lee Westwood had beaten Danny Chia, Thongchai Jaidee and Nicholas Fung respectively.
Bernd Wiesberger and Shane Lowry were the only Europeans to lose their matches as the hosts rallied through K.T Kim and Anirban Lahiri.
But there were wins for Matt Fitzpatrick, Kristoffer Broberg, Chris Wood, Soren Kjeldsen and Victor Dubuisson, while Ross Fisher’s match with Jeung Hun Wang finished all square as Europe pulled away.
Clarke, who will also captain Europe’s Ryder Cup team later this year, told Sky Sports 4: “What Lee and Poults have brought to the team room has been priceless.
“All of the young kids have listened to them, they’ve all learnt from them and I think it’s been a hugely beneficial week.
“Massive credit to them. This Asian team was a strong team and the way Europe has played this week, I’ve been very, very impressed.
“If your players don’t play and don’t perform then you can be the best captain in the whole world and you’re not going to win, so the credit doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the players.
“The quality of the golf they have played this week has been brilliant.”
Westwood added: “There are some young lads on this team who are going to be playing in The Ryder Cup later in the year. This has been a great experience for them, just feeding them into team golf gradually. So I’m sure they will benefit hugely from this week – there are nothing but positives to come out of it.”
South Africa’s Haydn Porteous carded a final round 69 to win his maiden European Tour title at the Joburg Open.
Porteous became the second South African in as many weeks to open his account after Brandon Stone’s triumph at the BMW SA Open last Sunday.
The 21-year-old, who had gone into the fourth day on the East Course at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club tied with compatriot Zander Lombard and England’s Anthony Wall on 15 under par, completed a flawless round which included three birdies to finish two shots clear on 18 under.
Porteous told www.europeantour.com: “Words can’t describe how I feel right now. It’s surreal to be honest.
“I’ve been battling with my golf for the last few months and hats off to [fitness coach] Garth Milne for all the strategy and game-plan and gym.
“I started to hit a few fairways and a lot more greens and gave myself some chances to make birdie. Unfortunately the putts didn’t go in, but I was keeping the pressure low and making sure I was going to be making par.”
Lombard’s hopes were dashed as he dropped shots on the ninth, 11th and 14th holes on his way to a one-under-par 71, leaving him in second place.
Wall had to settle for a four-way tie for third after he finished the tournament with a 72 following three sub-par rounds with his two birdies, one of them at the first, cancelled out by two bogeys.
But he at least had the consolation of qualifying for the Open Championship at Royal Troon along with Porteous and Lombard as a result, just as he did last year.
Leading Scot was Paul Lawrie, who closed with a 70 for a seven-under-par total as he finished in joint-31st. Scott Henry ended up in a share of 59th after he signed off with a 73 for a two-under aggregate while Craig Lee’s closing efforts of 76 and 74 saw him finish tied for 69th on three-over.