It took an extra five holes, but local hero Larry Austin has snared the Queanbeyan Open with a clutch birdie over defending champion Matt Millar and young gun Andre Lautee.
On a perfect day for golf, the result was always in the balance, with several players making moves but few able to hold the lead for any length of time.
Several hopefuls jumped out fast, including Tim Hart, who had four straight birdies to begin his round and his Queensland counterpart Will Bruyeres, who cruised to six under par after six holes.
As the round wore on, several others joined the fray, including Justin Warren, former Japan Tour player Neven Basic and the above pair, Austin and defending champ Millar.
With no one making a clean break, Millar got to the clubhouse first courtesy of back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18.
Austin, however, was the man of the moment. After starting day two, the local from nearby Bungendore and a member here at Queanbeyan put on a clinic, firing six birdies on his way to a blemish-free 64 and a share of the clubhouse lead.
Lautee, playing in the final group alongside overnight leader Mathias Sanchez, remained steady throughout and, with a brace of birdies from the 11th to 13th, made it to eight under. Sadly chances proved hard to convert on the way home for the young Victorian, and he eventually signed for a second consecutive 66.
The playoff, another first in the NSW Regional Open Series, was an enthralling affair. After the trio made pars on their return to the 18th the first time, Lautee bowed out first, failing to get up and down from the back of the green, leaving Austin and Millar to fight for the spoils.
Three more holes ensued, with Millar likely to convert a chance on two occasions. A misbehaving putter, first from about ten feet and then from about four, didn’t behave, and the Canberran was left rueing the lost opportunities.
After four loops of the 18th, the decision by officials to switch the battle to the par three 8th proved pivotal for Austin, and with honour, he managed to rifle his approach to within nine feet. Milar responded with a pearl of his own to about ten feet, but like the two previous playoff holes, his putter again didn’t respond.
Austin, now with a real chance to convert for the first time in the playoff, made no mistake, slotting his putt for a well-deserved and extremely popular win amongst the following gallery.
“”Matty and I have known each other for a long time, we did our traineeship together., and I knew if I gave him too many chances, it would be game over,” a delighted Austin said after his win.
“He had a close one, and thankfully he didn’t make it. We did one more hole and I was finally able to close it out.”
Austin admitted he had doubts over the final putt, but a piece of sound advice from his caddy helped put him straight.
“I thought it was going to break a bit more, and my caddy, Leon, talked me out of it a bit, we went with a straighter roll, and it was right.”
The win also secured Austin a spot in the 2023 PLAY TODAY NSW Open, which was an especially fitting reward after coming so close to securing a start in 2022 NSW Open in the South Open earlier this year at Moruya.
“I’m stoked about wining a spot in the NSW Open. I’m happy to do it at my home club, in front of so many members and with so much support.”