By David Tease, Golf NSW
VICTORIAN Ben Eccles has stamped himself as a new star of Australian golf after his wire-to-wire win in the 2015 NSW Open Golf Championship at Stonecutters Ridge Golf Club.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Eccles says. “I’ve never led from start to finish – it’s a pretty amazing feeling to be honest!”
The Victorian Institute of Golf team member had it easy in his final round Sunday, shooting an even-par round of 72 for a 19-under par four round total of 269 to win by three shots.
The expected challenge from his playing partners in the final group never really eventuated.
Bogies on the first and second holes to Newcastle’s Clayton Bridges and an early double bogey on the par-4 3rd hole for Peter Lonard made their task difficult for the remainder of the final round.
Eccles calm demeanour held all day. A solid 2-under par 34 on the front nine meant it was always going to make the task harder for any player trying to make a final round charge.
His finishing score could have been even lower except for a couple of bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes which made the result seem a little closer than it really was.
It was New South Wales’ Rohan Blizard and Matthew Millar from the ACT who did most of the chasing. Blizard carded a respectable 4-under par round of 68 to go with his course record 62 on Friday, while Millar let a late round double bogey on the 16th end his small chance of taking the title.
Eccles didn’t take any chances as his round drew to a close. Winning the Championship wasn’t in his thoughts until the final hole. He had no idea how many he was leading by until he stepped onto the last tee.
“It didn’t sink in until I played 18. I didn’t know what Matt (Millar) was doing up front, but I knew if I made par up the last it was good enough.”
His decision to take an iron from the tee on the par-5 18th was a reminder of his clinical approach to his task all day.
“It’s a pretty tough tee shot into that wind. I didn’t want to hit a driver or a 3-wood and risk it so I just took the iron to keep it in play.”
“All the nerves went after I hit that shot,” Eccles says.
And despite his outward calmness all day it was always likely to be the nerves of Eccles that would be his biggest challenge.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night. There were plenty of nerves this morning.”
It was a quiet chat with Professional Andre Stolz prior to teeing off this morning that helped put things into perspective for the young man from Torquay.
“I asked Andre for a couple of tips,” Eccles says. ”He’s been in that winning circle before.”
The Championship win for Eccles was the culmination of some good play over the last few weeks. One of his goals this week was to put himself into contention.
“I’ve been playing good for the last three weeks,” he says. “Coming into this week all I wanted to do was put myself there in contention and I managed to do that.”
Eccles has a couple of other reasons to celebrate after lifting the Kel Nagle Cup. He turns 21 shortly.
“I’m 21 in two weeks. It’s a nice early birthday present.”
More importantly however was the phone call he was about to make to his mum.
“It’s her birthday today. I’m actually flying straight home to celebrate,” he says. “I haven’t phoned her with the news yet. She’s going to be over the moon.”