By Neal Maidment
Overnight leader Simon Hawkes held firm to post a two-stroke victory in the Nexus Advisernet Bowra & O’Dea WA Open – although he was pushed all the way by local favourite Connor McKinney.
Hawkes held a four-stroke lead with 18 holes to play but didn’t have things all his way on a thrilling final day at Joondalup Resort & Country Club, which saw several players jockeying for the lead.
South Australia’s Jason Norris looked to be the greatest threat to Hawkes. He closed the gap to a single-stroke after nine holes as he flew around Joondalup’s Quarry Course in just 32 shots (-4).
A rare dropped shot for Hawkes at the 10th allowed Norris to draw level and the pair engaged in an enthralling battle over the ensuing half-dozen holes, with Hawkes sneaking ahead only to once again be pegged back.
The par-four 16th looked like it would be pivotal when Hawkes made birdie to Norris’s bogey to open a two-stroke lead. However, a missed par putt for Hawkes at the short 17th left the door ajar.
Meanwhile, Joondalup Country Club’s very own Connor McKinney – playing in the group ahead of the leaders – was making a last-day charge of his own. After reaching the turn in 32, McKinney made three more birdies between 11 and 15 to galvanise the sizeable galleries and give the leaders something else to worry about.
A bogey at 16 looked to have put paid to McKinney’s chances, but he did his best to generate a grandstand finish with a sensational second shot to six feet on the par-five 18th.
Alas, his eagle putt refused to drop, but his six-under 66 gave McKinney a late clubhouse lead at -15 ensuring Hawkes and Norris would need to stay sharp to edge him out.
Although Hawkes put his second shot into a greenside bunker at 18, he made an excellent sand save to four feet and when Norris was unable to make birdie, Hawkes knew the title was his.
He underscored his superb week by knocking in his birdie putt for a round of 70 and a two-stroke win from Norris and McKinney at -17 for the championship.
“Until today, I hadn’t faced any adversity all week,” Hawkes told WA. “Jason pushed me all the way, and it means a lot for me to have held on and to know I’m now a multiple winner on the PGA Tour of Australasia.”
Hawkes’ first tour win since the 2018 Victorian Open also comes hand-in-hand with a two-year exemption, offering him some long-term career certainty.
“It’s great, I can start planning my schedule for the next three years knowing I’ll have a guaranteed place to play, which makes a big difference,” he added.
WA players go low on memorable day
Along with McKinney’s heroic efforts, a number of other WA players turned on the style to surge up the leaderboard.
Braden Becker, the 2021 WA Open champion, carded a best-of-the-day 65 to reach 12-under-par and finish in a share of 4th place with Kiwi Kerry Mountcastle.
Scott Strange rolled back the years with a vintage display of ball striking in a six-under-par 66 that moved him up into outright 8th position, while Hayden Hopewell also found his A-Game to fire a personal best-of-the-week 67.
Hopwell finished the championship in T11th at -8 alongside fellow WA players Joshua Greer (72) and Jarryd Felton (74), whose hoped-for final day charge never materialised.
There was also a moment of magic for WA’s Brody Martin, who hit an ace on the daunting par-three Quarry 3rd hole. Sadly, a quadruple bogey at the 9th rather derailed his day and Martin ultimately finished with a 76 and a share of 40th.
Croker claims low amateur honours
Queenslander Quinnton Croker underlined his burgeoning reputation by claiming the Terry Gale Trophy for the championship’s low amateur.
The 21-year-old closed his account with a two-under-par 70 for a nine-under four-round total and a share of 9th position, which was three strokes clear of Mount Lawley GC amateur Jordan Doull, who finished in a highly creditable T18th.
Connor Fewkes of Goldfields GC finished with a 69 to move to -4 for the championship (T26th), while Joe Owen of Lake Karrinyup also finished under par for the event in T29th at three under.
The PGA Tour of Australasia now moves to Kalgoorlie for the WA PGA Championship from October 12-15.
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