Mudgee’s Mark Hale won the Bathurst Golf Open title in his maiden appearance at the tournament, after posting a score of two under par across the 36-hole event.
Managing a score of 140 – 71 on Saturday and 69 on Sunday – Hale finished two shots ahead of Pennant Hills’ Andrew Richards and Monash Country Club’s Nathan Barbieri to claim victory in the two-day event.
The win now means Hale has qualified for his second consecutive NSW Open, after he qualified for the 2016 championship after winning a qualifier in Gunnedah.
“I didn’t hit the ball the best I’ve ever hit it but I putted the dots off it. I putted so good which is the most important part of the game,” he said.
“[On Saturday] I chipped in on the 15th. On the 17th, on Sunday, I was in the bunker plugged and got up and made a par. Those were some pretty good moments on the weekend.”
Hale was not happy with his form, heading into the Bathurst Open.
“I’ve had two weeks off heading into this. I was playing terrible and I was stale. I had lost a bit of interest,” he said.
“My nephew and brother-in-law came down and played nine on Friday. I putted good and thought, ‘Hello, it could be game on’.”
Hale praised the effort of the green keepers, as the field was in excellent condition.
“The course was in great condition. Everyone who’s involved in the competition in Bathurst has done a great job. Sponsors, green staff, everyone in the club house. It’s excellent,” he said.
“There’s a lot of good players out there, a lot of plus markers. There’s also a lot of local blokes, which is good.”
The win for Hale now means he has qualified for the NSW Golf Open for the second consecutive year.
He said he’s looking forward to it.
“I qualified last year at Gunnedah. Same thing, a regional qualifier,” he said.
“I had even par for two rounds and missed the cut but I putted horrendous. It’s the worst I’ve putted in five years.
“I played really well here and hopefully I can make the cut [for the NSW Open].”
The event will played at Twins Creek in Luddenham, a course Hale has played on but not in 12 years.
Hale has been playing golf since he was nine-years-old and in his 36 years of playing the sport, he said winning the Bathurst Golf Open is one his highlights.
“I’m from the Hunter Valley originally. I’ve only been at Mudgee for two years and I’ve won my local championship 17 times,” he said.
“I go home every year to play in it.
“The [NSW Open] is on in a fortnight, so everything is coming together beautifully.”
Both his children – James and Jasmine – helped caddied Hale across the day.
“It was awesome. They were a massive help and made me really relaxed,” he said.
Hale left his mark in last year’s NSW Open, when a group of dedicated friends and fans forced betting on the tournament to be overhauled, when they took liking to 1000-to-one odds for Hale to win.
After several friends had $5 to $10 bets on Hale to win the tournament, his odds dropped to 200-to-one.
The Totalisator Agency Board moved quickly and decided to suspend betting on Hale.