Photo credit Candice High
By Tony Webeck
A two-putt par on the fourth playoff hole has secured Queensland’s Cassie Porter a maiden professional victory in a pulsating final day of the Drummond Golf Melbourne International.
Overnight leader Kelsey Bennett took the tournament by the scruff of the neck with birdies at each of her opening three holes at Latrobe Golf Club yet Porter never strayed from her game-plan, calling on the mental training she has been undertaking with coach Dan Morrison and former PGA TOUR player Nick O’Hern.
Bennett would give her great mate and travelling companion a sniff with a double bogey at the par-4 seventh and then dropped to a share of the lead with a second double bogey, this time at the par-4 15th.
Porter (70-70) took the lead outright with a birdie at the par-4 16th, forcing Bennett (68-72) to birdie the final hole to send the tournament to extra holes.
If there was high drama during regulation, much more was to follow in the sudden-death playoff.
The pair both parred the 18th on first attempt and when Porter dropped a bomb for birdie from 50 feet at the second playoff hole, the tournament seemed in her grasp.
Yet Bennett, playing in her first WPGA Tour of Australasia event since turning professional, sent the large crowd into raptures when she holed a birdie putt of her own from outside 40 feet to extend the playoff to a third hole.
Such was the sportsmanship on display, Porter fetched Bennett’s ball from the bottom of the cup and the pair embraced before heading to the 18th tee for a third time.
The Queenslanders both made par on the third attempt before Porter’s two-putt from the back edge – and Bennett’s three-putt – secured the Sunshine Coast product victory in the first event of the season.
“I was kind of on edge all day,” admitted Porter, who will head to the US this year to play the secondary Epson Tour.
“Kelsey, Karis (Davidson) and I are all great friends but obviously there’s that competitive edge because, as much as I love the girls, you want to win.
“At the time it didn’t really feel like the right thing to do but I stuck to the game-plan and it came off.
“Kelsey and I are best mates so it was so nice to put on a bit of entertainment for the crowd and see the smiles on their faces. And the smiles on our faces.”
Admitting that she was “heartbroken” by not advancing to the final stage of LPGA Q Series in November, Porter has spent the past few months both recharging and reinvigorating her game.
With a need to perform well in the early stages of the Epson Tour season to improve her status, a big focus has been her mental performance, an area that stood up under immense pressure on Sunday.
“I didn’t play very well towards the end of the year so I had a really nice break over Christmas with the family and then got back to working hard on the things that I haven’t been doing well,” said Porter, who was tied 11th at the Australian Open in December.
“I’ve been working hard on my mental because that’s 90 per cent of the game and pretty much what won the playoff for me.
“It’s nice to see it pay off because in this game we don’t win very often. You’ve got to take it when you do.”
Defending champion Karis Davidson (72) finished in a tie for third with New Zealand’s Momoka Kobori (71) just one shot further back with Indonesian amateur Holly Halim securing fifth with rounds of 74-69.
The WPGA Tour of Australasia now moves on to the first event of the 2023 Webex Players Series, TPS Victoria, at Rosebud Country Club starting Thursday.
For Final Results and Prizemoney click HERE