Declan Pereira and Amanda Gan came from behind on the last day to nab one-stroke victories in the respective boys’ and girls’ divisions at the Drummond Golf 54-Hole Junior Classic.
The three-day event saw a record number of 89 competitors battle it out on three different South West courses: Capel GC, Dunsborough Lakes and Busselton GC. Fine weather conditions were conducive to good golf, but few could have predicted the final-day fireworks that decided the titles.
In what always seemed destined to be a shootout between the WA state teammates, Mount Lawley’s Gan and Celine Chen (Joondalup CC) went at it hammer and tongs over the three days, trading blows and birdies right to the end.
Chen held a one-stroke lead after 36 holes, which was extended to three by the fourth hole of the final round after Gan made two early bogeys. The two then played par golf for the remainder of the front nine, leaving Chen looking the likely victor.
Gan, however, moved up a gear, making birdies on 10, 11 and 13 to draw level before Chen’s first dropped shot of the day on 15 saw her surrender the lead.
Another birdie on 16 moved Gan two clear, but a dropped shot at the next left the door ajar for Chen, who stood over a six-foot birdie putt that would have drawn her back level. Agonisingly, her putt lipped out, preserving Gan’s one-stroke lead that she successfully held onto as both made birdies on 18.
“I’m thrilled to win this event,” Gan told GolfWA. It was awesome to battle it out with Celine the way we did. The golf was really high quality and either of us could’ve won it.”
Gan’s winning score of even par ultimately left her one clear of Chen with Ruby Cotton (Mount Lawley) taking third place, a further five strokes adrift.
Pereira’s perfect finish
If anything, the finale of the boys’ event was even more enthralling, with wafer-thin divides separating the top players and a grandstand finish required to break a three-way tie.
Liam Sullivan (The Vines Country Club) produced two sublime rounds at Capel and Dunsborough Lakes to establish a stranglehold on the championship going into the last day.
Rounds of 74 and 71 gave Sullivan a five-stroke cushion over Krishav Sheth (Lake Karrinyup) with 18 holes to play, but the overnight leader had a final round to forget, opening the door for the chasing pack.
Sullivan fell away to a closing 80 while playing partner Sheth posted 75 to share the clubhouse lead. Following on in the group behind, meanwhile, Lakelands CC member Declan Pereira was piecing together a fine round of his own to move into contention.
After starting the day six shots behind, Pereira had drawn level with Sullivan and Sheth by the time he reached the par-four 18th tee. He found the green in two before producing a moment of magic, holing his birdie attempt from 30 feet to break the tie at the top of the leaderboard.
His round of 73 was enough to secure the biggest title of Pereira’s career to date, with the player himself admitting it was all a bit of a shock.
“I didn’t know I had to birdie 18 to win,” he told GolfWA. “I was hoping that a two-putt would leave me close to the lead but I really wasn’t sure. The putt had a lot of pace when it hit the hole, but it dropped in and my playing partner Braedon Law then told me that was the winning putt.”
With several of WA’s leading juniors turning 18 over the course of the year, there’s space for emerging talents to establish themselves as regular title contenders. Pereira now hopes his 54-Hole win will be the kickstart he needs to take his game to the next level.
“I always try to do my best and I never give up when I’m competing,” he added. “I’d definitely say that this has been the best year of my career so far.”