Story and Photos by Dave Tease, Golf NSW
Barwon Heads’ John Owen has won his first NSW Senior Amateur Crown in a thrilling finish at Murray Downs Golf and Country Club.
Owen held on to claim the title by two shots from fellow Victorian Gordon Claney and Mona Vale’s Mark Pearson.
Starting two shots behind overnight leader Pearson and a shot behind Claney, Owen was as solid as a rock as the two leaders stumbled.
Owen got his first taste of the lead on the sixth when he made par, while Pearson and Claney could only make bogey. With a two-putt birdie on the par five 7th, the lead was Owen’s alone for the first time.
With the group of Barltrop, Puskaric and Davey making things interesting, Owen saved his best for the homeward nine. Despite a bogey on the 10th, it was a lesson in control from the 58-year-old with birdies on the 12th, 14th and 15th to enjoy a two-shot lead until the penultimate hole.
With the title seemingly in his grasp, Owen missed a makeable par putt from about 1m on the 17th to give his playing partner Claney a sniff coming up the last.
But it wasn’t Claney’s day and when the Australian representative couldn’t get up and down from the right fringe, all Owen had to do was two-putt for par and a two-shot win.
A relieved Owen was thrilled with his win.
“It was very interesting. I haven’t been playing a great deal so pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Owen said the key to his win was to keep the ball in play and not do anything silly around the greens.
“That was how it panned out in the end,” he said with a smile.
Owen said he wasn’t overawed with the final group pairing, admitting he had played a lot of golf with Claney and knew what to expect.
“I’ve played a bit of golf with Gordon, and he’s never going to make many mistakes, and you don’t expect him to shoot worse than 74, so I knew I had to play as good as I can to catch him and that’s the way it was.”
Owen said he felt the pressure on the back nine a couple of times, but had the perfect antidote to the nerves in his bag.
“I felt it a couple of times, but one good thing I can stand there with the driver and try and smash the living daylights out of it, so that releases a bit of pressure.”
It was the first time in the Senior Amateur for Owen and the biggest win of his career. He isn’t a senior circuit regular, but enjoys the competition when he does get out to play.
“I’m still working full time, and I play maybe six a year. The NSW event came up. I saw it as a chance to come and play up here, so I took it.”
As for a title defence in 2020, Owen is keen to come back: “Wherever it is being played next year I’ll be there; I’d love to come back and play.”
As the champion, Owen is now eligible to take part in the Lincoln Place NSW Senior Open Championship, to be played at Thurgoona Country Club in late October, alongside the likes of Peter Lonard, Craig Parry, Peter Senior, Ian Baker-Finch, and last year’s Champion, Michael Long.
218: John Owen (Vic), 220: Gordon Claney (VIC), Mark Pearson (NSW), 222: Michael Barltrop (NZL), 226: Geoffrey Charnley (VIC), David Robb (NSW), Steve Puskaric (NSW), John Davey (SA), 228: Ian Cleary (VIC), 229: Stephen Valentine (VIC), Ian Frost (QLD), 230: Graeme Howland (NSW), Gregory Rhodes (VIC), 232:Sal Ballard (NSW) Geoff Cranfield (NSW), Ken Brewer (NSW), 233: John Karren (NSW), 234:David Gleeson (NSW).