"Boom Boom" Lee wins NSW Amateur
BY Anthony Powter | Australian Mens Amateur Tour | 2006 New South Wales Amateur Championship | 12 Feb 2006
Final Day Photo Gallery – 2006 NSW Amateur
As major amateur championships go, it could not have been closer. England’s Gary Wolstenholme, a seasoned amateur playing neck and neck with Concord’s Won Joon Lee, a player half his age. Both players held the lead at various stages of the regulation 36 hole match play format, at one stage the lead changing multiple times through a 8 birdie exchange on the second 18 holes.
It would come down to a 305 metre drive on the 37th sudden death playoff hole to determine the Championship, but it was a Championship that could have gone either way.
Wolstenholme exhibited marvelous control throughout the match, reflective of seasoned player who knows match play course management when the heat is on. His second shot into the 30th hole was one of the shots of the Championship. Won Joon Lee response was simple and to the point – “you don’t need your putter Gary!”.
There were signs of an early English victory when Wolstenholme sunk his birdie putt on the 34th hole, whereby he exhibited a rare sign of emotion with a fist crunch that sent shivers amongst the local crowd. They could sense there was going to be another English victory on Australian soil. Lee, however, had other plans.
Credit must be given to Lee, he held in there today and on the very next hole, sunk a seven metre putt from the fringe to bring the match back to all square going down the 36th. The local crowd appreciated the putt as did Lee who did a “Tiger” like punch into the air.
Wolstenholme’s game plan today reflected simple match play strategy; hit fairways, then centre of greens. Throughout the match he would be in a position to would play his second into the green first and put pressure on Lee. Wolstenholme’s mid iron play throughout the match was simply superb.
“I thought when my putt went in on the 34th hole that I had won. I did not expect Won Joon to sink his putt on the very next hole from the fringe of the green. I played well today and it was heart wrenching after a long week to go down, but full credit to Woon Joon. He took a bold approach with the driver on the next and it paid off for him.”
Lee has the reputation of being a brut with the driver and this was confirmed on numerous occasions during the match and much to the like of his local followers. There was sheer amasement from his supporters on the first sudden death playoff hole when Lee drove the 305 metre par 4 with his driver.
It would prove a strategy that was the turning point of the match and it paid big dividends for Lee – namely the Championship and he becomes only the ninth winner of securing both the Medal and the Championship proper, the last being Colin Kaye in 1976.
“I was trying to get Gary to hit a bad shot so I tried to hit the green with my driver. I landed on the green but Gary did not hit a bad shot. I then had two putts for a win and Gary had to sink his putt for a birdie. Lucky he missed and I was able to get birdie. That’s what it came down to really.”
“I was very tough today. Gary just kept on coming back and I found it hard to pull away. It was very draining out there today.”
The Championship had been won by a booming drive which will undoubtedly bring the debate about equipment and the ball back to the various forums. Likewise you could debate the issue about a par 4 being driven in the first sudden death playoff hole.
Irrespective of such debates, the match between Wolstenholme and Lee would have to be one of the most gripping NSW Amateur Championship that had occurred for some time. The fact was both deserved the Championship but with sport there can only be one victor and today it was Woon Joon Lee, his first major amateur championship since 2004 with the ACT Amateur.
Photo – Anthony Powter