THE medal Blake Windred was awarded as the leading amateur at the 2017 NSW Open is one of the Novocastrian’s prized possessions.
Indeed, the 20-year-old still gets shivers up his spine when he recalls a thrilling final round in which he peeled off six birdies and an eagle for a seven-under 65 to be at 14 under and tied for fourth at Twin Creeks.
“The NSW Open, that final day, was one of the best memories I have had in golf,” Windred said.
“Playing in front of that many people and finishing in the top five in a tier-one event. It was great fun.”
The Charlestown gun hopes to forge more memories when he tees up at the 2018 NSW Open at the same venue starting Thursday.
Windred is the youngest player ever to qualify for $400,000 Australasian tour event, securing a spot in 2011 when his was just 13.
He has since played at major amateur events around the world as well as a host of professional state opens, but his home event remains top of the tree.
“It’s the biggest for me,” he said. “It’s my home state and I played really well here last year.”
But he is also aware that his stunning effort in 2017 means nothing when he stands on the tee on Thursday.
“I’m certainly not taking anything for granted,” he said. “Hopefully I can back it up again. I’m just looking to hit the ball well and make some putts.
“Just because I finished well last week, or last year, doesn’t mean this week will be the same. It might be better, but it might not be as good. You have to try and keep the emotions as close to level as possible, not up and down. If the course is anything like last year, steady golf is the way to go. You have to play well just to make the cut.”
Windred heads to Twin Creeks in good form.
He carded rounds of 69,69,70,71 to be the leading amateur at five under and tied for eighth overall at the Queensland Open last week.
“I hung in there all day and it felt good when I finished and saw myself inside the top 10,” Windred said. “It was so windy and hot. And it was a swirling wind. The greens got rock hard and you couldn’t stop it (the ball).”
His final round included three birdies in the final four holes.
“I was quite aggressive in the last few holes and it paid off a bit. I knocked a three wood on the middle of the par-four 15th and just missed my eagle putt. Then I hit two of the best shots in my life into the wind to a par-five and had two putts for birdie.”
Windred is one of five Newcastle amateurs in the field alongside Dylan Perry, Hayden Gulliver, Tom Bateman and Charlestown clubmate Jye Pickin.
Former US PGA Tour players James Nitties, Nick Flanagan and Nathan Green are among eight Hunter professionals vying for prizemoney.