Waikato’s Charlie Smail has won the 2018 New Zealand Amateur Championship to claim the biggest win of his young career by defeating Wellington’s Kerry Mountcastle 5&4 in the 36-hole final.
The 20-year-old has now achieved something his famous golf-playing father, David, was never able to, which was an extremely proud moment for the Smail family at Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary yesterday.
“It’s amazing and a very special feeling. I can’t really believe it at the moment. This is the biggest win of my career by far,” Smail said.
“Quite a few people have come out to support including family and members from the golf club, so it’s a special day.”
While David Smail is one of New Zealand’s most decorated and successful professionals, he was never able to accomplish his son’s feat of winning the national amateur title.
“It feels pretty amazing and he has done a lot more than I did in the amateur stuff, I think I hardly ever made the top 32, so he’s done well and done us proud,” said an emotional David Smail.
It was a family affair with his mother Sheree on the bag this week who also had a very successful amateur career and this is clearly a big stepping stone for a player who has big shoes to fill.
“We are all immensely proud of what he has done today and I hope he eclipses us and makes us look silly.
“It’s really weird being on the other side, I can now see why people who used to watch me say how stressful it was and they couldn’t watch because I got similar feelings today and I just wanted him to do well, so it’s a bit funny being on this side of the fence.”
Although Mountcastle fell just short, he has had a year to remember after winning on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour against the professionals before claiming the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship in Wellington.
He rushed home to pack his bags before heading to Australia at 6am today to play in the New South Wales Open alongside Daniel Hillier, who will also feature in the Australian Open alongside some of the world’s best.
Thirty-six holes wasn’t enough to find the New Zealand Women’s Amateur champion, with Auckland’s Vivian Lu making a clutch birdie on the first extra hole to claim the 2018 title.
Lu made a vital four birdies in five holes to close out the match in what was a seesawing affair against lead qualifier and hot favourite Kum Kang Park, who had a superb week at Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary.
At only 14 years of age, Lu got off to a great start as she built a 5 up lead through 14 holes against Park, but the Korean showed why she was the No.1 seed and clawed her way back in the match.
Park made a crucial 30-foot par save on the 15th hole to avoid going 6 down before winning the last three holes, all with birdies, to close the gap to only 2 down at lunch. Park then continued her charge back into contention, eventually squaring the match with six holes to play.
As they traded birdies, it all came down to the last hole where Park was in a spot of bother before her phenomenal chip shot rattled the pin and was enough to take the match even further, but she could not repeat the heroics with Lu having the final say.
On the 37th hole after an exhausting five days’ play, Lu found the strength to nail a curling 18-foot birdie putt to claim the national title in style.
“It feels really good to win the biggest amateur event in New Zealand, and this title is really amazing,” Lu beamed.
The Auckland representative has put together a superb year on the New Zealand Golf circuit after winning the Akarana Open on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour and now adds her name to the history books alongside some great players, including two-time champion Lydia Ko.
“It’s been a good year for me and hopefully it can continue next year.”
The majority of these players will now turn their attention to the Toro Interprovincials where it will be all matchplay as we search for the best district in the country in late November/December.