Harrison Crowe shot a second, straight 64 at Concord today to put himself in a share of the lead with Victorian pro Blake Collyer at the Golf Challenge NSW Open, with a groundbreaking victory in sight for the St Michael’s amateur.
The 20-year-old completed another “pretty cruisy” bogey-free round when his birdie putt from 20 feet down the hill at the par-four ninth hole today trickled down and just missed the hole, leaving him a tap-in for a seven-under round that takes him to 14-under overall, tied with Collyer. The Melburnian had earlier blazed a stunning 62 in the benign conditions, Concord again being picked apart by the top players with no wind to protect it.
Four players – Deyen Lawson, Dimi Papadatos, Jarryd Felton and Jordan Zunic – are at 12-under par and two shots back having all shot 66 today.
Crowe has come through the Golf NSW elite programs and won prolifically, including the most recent state amateur title, so he is no shrinking violet. Asked if he was thinking in the back of his mind about a win, he said: “Absolutely. It’s at the front of the mind, not the back of the mind. I came out here this week not to just make the cut or a top-10. I wanted to win. I’ve put myself in a position to do that and I’ve just got to take it as it comes and keep playing the same golf I’ve been playing.”
Only two amateurs have won the NSW Open this century – Rick Kulacz in 2006 and Ben Eccles in 2015.
Crowe is in no hurry to turn professional but his golf has been plainly of pro standard this week. Today he bombed the ball off the tee taking advantage of his length and missed just one green in regulation – the third, where he got up-and-down anyway. In amongst that he rolled in seven birdie putts but his best fist pump came at the 13th, where he holed a longish par-saver. “In the back of my mind, I was like ‘I’m bogey-free, I’m thinking I don’t want to three-putt here’. That’s a pretty bad thought to have. Just hit it, knock it in. It’s nice to see it drop.”
He will be in the final group tomorrow with Collyer, 25, who rollicked his way around in a tournament-low 62 with eight birdies and an eagle at the par-four fifth hole, when he jarred his wedge shot from 79 metres. “I was aiming a bit left of the flag, and it kind of came out going on the flag and it went once bounce and in for eagle,” he said.
Collyer was an excellent amateur and a Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder but in three years as a pro he has struggled; exacerbated by the pandemic which left him with nowhere to play momentarily. In 2020 it forced him to take a up a day job driving a food delivery truck, and the whole experience left him with a better perspective of how much he loves to play. This week he will try to log his first pro win, and by Sunday night he will be on a plane to India to play the Delhi Golf Club Open on the Asian Tour.
“Tournament golf is where you can make the most gains with your game because it’s under pressure, week-in, week-out,” he said. “That’s helped me massively, playing and competing, different courses each week and try to score as low as possible.’’
Four of those in the second group were among the nine first-round leaders, including Papadatos, who was given an early tee-off to make sure he could complete his best man duties at fellow-pro Lincoln Tighe’s wedding in Wollongong in the afternoon. Making light of a tricky week, New South Welshman Papadatos raced around in 66 to stay in the mix. “It’s a pretty exciting day and I’ve got a lot of things on my mind, so it was good to stay focused,” he said before racing off to suit up and drive down the highway along with two other players and his caddie who were invited to Tighe’s nuptials.
As for Crowe, he was headed off for a quiet night to prepare for a significant weekend in his golfing life. A while back, he won a made-for-television world championship conducted by the tournament’s title sponsor. This weekend, he plans on going a step farther.
“I think today just confirmed that I’m good enough to be here,” he said. “Obviously sleeping on top, tied for the lead last night, and kind of knowing that you’ve got to shoot a good round, and then going out there and doing it, is always a big confidence-booster. There’s two rounds left, so anything can happen. I’ve just got to keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing.”