Porto’s Purcell cleans up at Australian Amateur

by Gazette Reporter

Portmarnock Golf Club’s Conor Purcell held his nerve in an epic, nail-biting final to beat Nathan Barbieri on the first extra hole of the Australian Amateur championship last weekend.

The match had ebbed and flowed with some largely wonderful golf on the pristine Woodlands layout.

“The last few holes were a bit edgy, but to cap it off on the playoff hole was nice,” said Purcell, who had his brother Gary on the bag for the final and later had his trophy presentation played live via Facetime to his parents in Dublin.

“Credit to Nathan, he made a couple of great shots when he needed to today and it was pretty tense that last few minutes.

“Funnily enough I was more nervous on the first tee this morning than I was going down the playoff hole – I felt quite comfortable still because I’d been playing well all week.”

The final produced a combined 17 birdies but the match really came to life in the final hour when Barbieri fought back from four down with 10 holes to play to force an extra hole.

The home favourite, who played extra holes in the Round of 32 and won his semi-final after being three down with five to play, again showed incredible pluck.

Barbieri’s fight was typified when, still two down as he walked to the 35th, drilled his tee shot to within 1.5m, then roared as he walked his birdie putt to keep the match alive.

The drama then intensified when, from the right rough, Purcell’s second to the par-five 36thhole raced across the fairway and up the path next to the clubhouse.

Barbieri suddenly had new life when the Irishman couldn’t scramble par and when he pumped his tee shot down the middle of the 37th, looked as though momentum could carry him home.

But he tugged a 122m approach left and his subsequent bump shot down the hill past the pin simply wouldn’t stop in time for an easy return par attempt.

Meanwhile, Purcell, with composure regained, lagged his birdie putt to kick-in range and was conceded his par.

Barbieri stood over his putt, ultimately going to the well once too often for even the cliffhanger gods, and blocked his par try narrowly right.

Purcell was politely mobbed by a horde of Irish fans who’d come to watch him play, becoming the country’s first Australian Amateur champion in the tournament’s storied 125-year history.

And as the prize of exemptions into the Australian Open and Vic Open fields – plus the surprise honorary membership later bestowed on him by the host club – became a reality, the humble youngster was still shocked.

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