England international Paul Howard staged a grandstand finish to win the New South Wales Amateur Championship in Australia and give his Walker Cup hopes a timely shot in the arm.
The 24-year old trailed his Australian opponent over the closing holes at Avondale Golf Club but a crucial birdie, when he drove the green on the par-4 35th, got him back on level terms.
The 36th was halved in par before Howard clinched the win with a par at the first extra hole, after his opponent flew the green with his approach.
“It was a golf grinder, a close match without many bogeys,” said Howard afterwards. “The turning point was driving the green on the 17th to win the hole.”
Howard, from Southport &Ainsdale in Lancashire, adds this title to the South American Championship, which he won in 2014.
His success provides a triumphant end to a five-week tour of Australia by a trio of England Golf players.
“It was nice to get a win after playing so well for the trip,” said Howard, whose win propelled him into the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The victory will also have impressed Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards who named Howard in his 20-man initial squad for this year’s match with the USA at Royal Lytham & St Annes. The final ten-man team will be confirmed later in the summer.
Howard, who was the No.2 seed, had a fight on his hands throughout the final. His 18-year-old opponent David Micheluzzi made a fast start and was two-under after two – and two-up.
Howard’s own birdie on the fourth narrowed the gap and he was back on level terms after six holes. A further birdie on the ninth hole put him one-up and he held that slender advantage until he conceded the 16th and then lost the 18th, to reach the halfway stage at one-down.
Micheluzzi again set off the second round in blistering style with birdies on 19 and 20 to get to three-up. Howard answered with his own birdie on the 21st but, with seven holes to play, he was still trailing by two. He won the 30th and 31st holes to square matters, but lost the next to a birdie to again fall behind. However, he made his vital move with his 35th hole birdie and, before long, had the trophy in his hands.
The other members of the England Golf squad were English champion Nick Marsh (Huddersfield) and Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Stow (Rushmore). Both qualified for the New South Wales Matchplay Championship but Marsh had the misfortune to meet Howard in the first round and Stow lost in the second.
Earlier in the trip, Howard claimed fifth place in the Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne, signing off with a fourth round 66, which included six birdies on the back nine.
Nick Marsh became the Australian Amateur Championship medallist at eight-under-par in the strokeplay qualifying and all three reached the matchplay stages. Ben Stow also secured a top ten finish in the Lake Macquarie Amateur, finishing with a pair of 68s.
Photo: ©Golf NSW