Lake Macquarie Pro-Am: Bautista calls on amateur experience to win inaugural title

ON COURSE: Nick Flanagan on the tee at the Lake Macquarie Pro-Am on Monday. The former US PGA Tour member is one of many players who competed at the Lake Macquarie Amateur before turning pro. Picture: Simone De Peak.
ON COURSE: Nick Flanagan on the tee at the Lake Macquarie Pro-Am on Monday. The former US PGA Tour member is one of many players who competed at the Lake Macquarie Amateur before turning pro. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Twelfth was the highest Austin Bautista finished in his three attempts at the Lake Macquarie Amateur Championships at Belmont.

But the experience Bautista gained proved invaluable as the Sydneysider shot a six-under 66 to win the inaugural $15,000 Lake Macquarie Pro-Am on Monday.

The 20-year-old, who turned pro in February, rattled off six birdies in a blemish-free round.

Nathan Millar, Michael Long and Brad McIntosh were tied for second a stroke back. BJ Taylor was fifth at four under.

Locals Graeme Stockley, Callan O’Reilly, Ed Stedman and Aaron Townsend were next at three-under. Nathan Green, Nick Flanagan and Leigh McKechnie were among a group at two under.

Bautista, who left Sydney at 4am for a 7.15am tee time, opened with a birdie at the 16th hole. 

“I love Belmont and the amateur was one of my favourite tournaments,” he said. “I started on the 16th which is a beautiful hole along the ocean. I didn’t miss many fairways which is key at Belmont. I missed a couple of putts but finished birdie, birdie par, which was pleasing.” 

The pro-am replaced the 72-hole amateur which lost its status as a national ranking event in what would have been its 60th year. The club had hoped to run it on a smaller scale in January, but it clashed with the Australian Amateur in Melbourne and was scrapped.

 Belmont general manager Glenn Howard declared the pro-am a success.

“The support of the members and local small businesses made sure it is a success finacially,” Howard said. “It was a chance to give 180 members the chance to play with a good pro, which is what we were after.”

* The Hunter pro-am swing moves to Merewether ($12,000) on Tuesday where Jamie Hook will defend his title. It heads south to Wyong ($15,000) Wednesday and Waratah ($11,000) Thursday.

* Dion Hannaford shot a two-under par 69 to win the Muree Cup by two shots on Sunday. Michael Coutman (72) was runner-up on a count back from Mark Rota.

* Charlestown are hosting a Black Friday big hole golf day. The nine hole competition has a shotgun start and includes dinner. Book at pro shop.

* Dungog duo Chis Martin and Chris Simon finished eighth at the NSW Men’s Four Ball Championships at Bonville last week. Representing Hunter District, Martin and Simon were square after 18 holes before finding their groove to finish at + 7. Muree’s Peta Both and David Croul were 20th at +2.

* Horizons will open its new par-four ninth hole on Wednesday.

* Kurt Barnes ended a streak of five-straight missed cuts on the Japan Tour with a top-15 finish at the Honma Tourworld Cup. Barnes opened with a 67 and followed up with 68-69-67 to be 13 under and a tie for 14th.

The strong result moved Barnes to 82nd on the order of merit, ahead of the tour’s richest tournaments. Aaron Townsend, who flew over for the one tournament, had rounds of 71-67-71-69 to finish tied for 54th.