by Dane Heverin
Amateur star Kirsten Rudgeley has beaten professionals for the first time in her career in a commanding victory in The Athena at Sandy Golf Links.
Rudgeley, 20, defeated Grace Kim in a thrilling five timeputt-off to hoist the trophy ain front of a strong crowd.
Plenty more tuned in at home to watch the three hole stroke play matches on Sunday and despite having played in a major - at last year’s AIG Women’s Open - Rudgeley said the spotlight on her has never been greater than this weekend.
“At that point in time when the putting came down to the wire. Everyone was concentrating on one putt. It was pretty cool,” she said.
“I was just going through my routine and trying to hit the putt that I wanted to.”
The West Australian fought back every time the title appeared to be slipping from her grasp.
She immediately fell a shot behind on the first hole, but managed to level things up at the second thanks to a brilliant chip shot that secured tap in par.
It looked as if it was all over however, when her second putt of the putt-off lipped out and threw the door wide open for Kim.
The Sydneysider could not capitalise and Rudgeley never gave her another look-in on her way to winning the title.
“It was such an awesome experience. I loved the whole week,” she said.
Sandy’s fast and firm greens had players trying to land the ball in front of the green and roll it on all day, but Rudgeley relied heavily on her sublime short game as she left her approaches short on all three holes.
“I can thank Brett Rumford for that one because he helps me out a wee bit,” she said.
“I’d probably say that my short game is my strongest point and it paid off today.”
Rudgeley began the day as the top seed after topping the leaderboard in yesterday’s skills challenge and she had a special guest with her as she stamped her authority with wins over Cassie Porter (in the quarter final) and Stephanie Bunque (in the semi final).
On the bag for the champion was Emily, an Australian Golf Foundation Junior Girls Scholarship recipient, and all the players were delighted to have such eager young golfers as part of the tournament.
As for the prize money - which she can accept under the new R&A rulings on prize money for amateurs - Rudgeley said it will go towards travel - she is heading to Augusta National soon to play on invitation in the Augusta Women’s Invitational - and it will also help her parents out.
Back home in Perth, Mt Lawley Golf Club will be rocking as her win made it a hat trick of victories for club members this month following Hannah Green’s Vic Open and TPS Murray River triumphs.
Final: Rudgeley def. Kim
Semi Finals: Rudgeley def. Bunque, Kim def. Davidson
Quarter Finals: Rudgeley def. Porter, Bunque def. Wilson, Kim def. Song, Davidson def. Bennett